Last week, Governor Deal got a bit chippy with media members who asked if his support for T-SPLOST violated his no tax increase pledge. He stated at no time did he waive his first amendment rights. Apparently, those rights extend to supporting Democrats over Republicans in re-election campaigns according to Lowndes County Republican Chairman Nolen Cox.
Cox, via press release announcing a 1pm press conference this afternoon, cites this email sent from Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson who had been contacted by the Connect Georgia Campaign wanting to know which city officials supported T-SPLOST:
Mayor and Council;
Governor Deal has requested a list of all elected officials who support T-SPLOST. He is willing to make a commitment to campaign for the reelection of any local elected official who will publicly support T-SPLOST. How should I respond? If each of you could respond to me I would appreciate it and I will merely pass it along. I want to be sure I say this was presented in no way as a threat or a negative, just as a commitment to help and support those who support T-SPLOST. Lt. Governor Cagle is also coming down for a fund-raiser for T-SPLOST soon. Both of those are vocal supporters and advocates for T-SPLOST.
Cox’s response, via press release, is as follows:
This is an unprecedented offer for a governor’s involvement in local elections. The majority of the Valdosta City Council run as Democrats, how would the governor fulfill his reelection support pledge? The impracticality of this offer makes it look more like a thinly-veiled threat to Republican anti-T-SPLOST members of city government, or possibly to provide cover for Mayor John Gayle who was originally against T-SPLOST when he was campaigning, but who recently switched his position after dining with Doug Calloway of the Chamber’s Transportation Alliance.”
“Governor Deal signed a “no new tax pledge” when running for governor, yet he has supported the voter referendum for taxpayers to approve a transportation tax in July. Deal has partnered with the GA Chamber to raise millions to promote a new transportation tax; that is supposed to be the voter’s choice. Deal is pro-tax on the largest tax increase in Georgia’s history; a massive tax increase of $18.7 billion over 10-years – on top of the other $19 billion already being spent on transportation.”
“This is a bad tax in a bad economy. The governor has made political points as a tax-friendly governor by again rescinding a one cent tax on fuel, yet at the same time he is promoting a one cent sales tax on everything you buy: food, beverages, clothes, fuel, etc. In fact, the T-SPLOST would add over three cents on a gallon of fuel.”
Cox further stated; “It looks like Governor Deal has taken a page from Obama’s play book and is building an enemies list of T-SPLOST opponents and trying to use intimidation as a tactic for support. Or possibly Doug Calloway, the hired gun for the Georgia Chamber, has thrown Governor Deal – their biggest fundraiser – “under the bus” to save Calloway’s job and reputation in a failing effort to convince Georgians to vote themselves a tax during the worst recession in modern times. The people of Georgia deserve an explanation of this Quid pro Quo.”
Noted in his second paragraph is the Governor’s decision last week to not increase taxes on motor fuels by eight tenths of one cent per gallon because of a bad economy, yet asking voters the very next month to increase the tax on all sales by an extra cent, a 16% increase in sales taxes paid by most Georgians.
Furthermore, the GOP Chairman’s willingness to frame the debate as a Republican Governor siding with Democrats against Republicans is now moving beyond the little discussed math of the Atlanta Region T-SPLOST, where Dems are expected to do the heavy lifting in a region where Republicans overwhelmingly oppose the measure. Moving this debate to Valdosta now takes the partisan aspect of the T-SPLOST debate statewide.