The allegations concerning Larry O’Neal, Sonny Perdue, and the land deal down in Florida are now well known. Three months after Perdue bought almost 20 acres of never seen land in Osceola County, Florida along a toll-road leading to Disney World, Larry O’Neal (pictured, left) on February 16, 2005 filed HB 488, legislation that deferred taxes on land sales starting in 2005 when similar property is purchased in another state. After the Georgia House passed the matter, O’Neal personally worked with the Senate to insert language making the tax deferment provision applicable to land bought beginning in 2004, instead of 2005. HB 488 was then returned to the floor of the House where O’Neal, himself a lawyer who has formed limited liability corporations and land partnerships for Perdue, took to the well to pass what his fellow legislators were told was a seemingly mundane tax bill requested by the Georgia Department of Revenue. Except the AJC reported several weeks later State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham actually did not ask for the change in the law: “[Graham] had been informed about that particular change —- not consulted, but informed.”
The result after HB 488 was passed and signed into law by Perdue? Perdue himself saved $100,000 in state income taxes.
HB 488 was a piece of legislation that was highly technical and difficult to fully understand with regard to the applicability of various tax laws. The only person who truly understood its ramifications and consequences was…Larry O’Neal. When O’Neal presented it to his colleagues on the floor of the Georgia House, he offered little in the way of explanation, did not draw attention to the amendments he had sought and which were successfully inserted, falsely suggested it was requested by Bart Graham, and accepted few questions concerning the matter. He stood impassively (or, to use a Cagle-ism, flaccid) gazing out at his colleagues, willing to sacrifice their political futures for an interest important to him but which he affirmatively failed to inform anyone regarding. Remember, HB 488 was unusual in that it retroactively exempted from state taxation capital gains for scenarios precisely like Perdue’s.
Some suggest this situation is irrelevant as Georgia voted to reelect Purdue in 2006. I, and I believe many others, think it is still relevant for it shows how O’Neal is willing to sacrifice his fellow legislators who approved HB 488 on the altar of his own personal interests.
That is simply not leadership. And, to this day, Larry O’Neal still has not given a full accounting for his motivations with regard to HB 488. This is a story that will, with an O’Neal election, return to haunt Republicans. There is simply no way that this matter can be papered over. O’Neal needs to provide an adequate explanation for his actions now, before Thursday.
Furthermore, while I can appreciate Erick’s charity with regard to O’Neal’s recent statements, I believe (even though made while ill) those concerning Glenn Richardson and a ‘live and let live’ form of leadership are accurate reflections of his beliefs and knowledge.
O’Neal did know about Richardson’s shenanigans and did nothing to stop them. O’Neal also has no problem letting the majority caucus take heat for his own backroom dealings. O’Neal is a leader we do not need as Speaker…unless the status quo is what is sought.