Recent reports have hinted that “Senate leadership” may have voted against T-SPLOST (SR 845) because the Governor opposed it. That is incorrect. And there are reports of political revenge by “business interests” against those who voted against higher taxes for roads. I hope that this is incorrect, too.
While I cannot speak for other Senators, I believe that they were opposed for the same reason I was – it amounted to ‘taxation without representation’. That issue started a revolution 232 years ago and I believe it would have started another one if it had passed.
When SR 845 left the Senate on February 20, it passed 51-4. It would have allowed any county to add an additional one penny sales tax for transportation needs. Like other Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOST), it would be for specific projects for a limited time and require voter approval. I voted “YES”.
On April 4, with literally 4 minutes left on the last day of the session, the Senate was presented with a new version that allowed a large group of counties to decide on regional road projects and then voted on by every county in the region. If a county voted against it, but it passed regionally, that county’s taxes were raised anyway. That was obviously unacceptable to many Senators, including me.
As a proposed Constitutional amendment, it required a 2/3 vote. It passed comfortably in the House, but failed in the Senate by 3 votes. 14 of 34 Republican Senators, including their 4 top leaders, and 4 Democrat Senators, including the Minority Leader, voted against the final version of the bill. The bill was reconsidered and failed again by the same vote.
I represent a portion of a large county (Chatham) and two smaller counties (Bryan and Liberty). Under the provisions of SR 845, Chatham County voters could outnumber the two smaller counties and force their taxes to increase. That is political suicide. It also isn’t fair. I make no apologies.
I want to help with traffic relief. I voted for T-SPLOST. But I couldn’t support what we were faced with at the last minute. I also believe that, if SR 845 had passed and been on the ballot for voter confirmation, it would have been defeated. We can come back and give local communities the ability to raise their own taxes if they want, but we should never allow someone to raise it against their will.
Sen. Eric Johnson
President Pro Tempore