T-SPLOST Postponement Bill Could Cloud Future of Transportation Tax

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Several prominent Republicans in the state House have just introduced two measures which would halt this summer’s scheduled vote on a regional transportation sales tax, or T-SPLOST.  As WABE’s Denis O’Hayer reports, the move raised more questions about the prospects for the T-SPLOST, and about the support of state leaders.

Sponsors of the legislation want to delay the T-SPLOST vote for two years, until voters first approve a constitutional amendment, to allow counties to form the regions that would collect the tax. Acworth GOP representative Ed Setzler told WABE, without a consitutional amendment, he didn’t think the tax would survive a court challenge:

“The constitution does not give the general assembly power to bind counties together, that a single multi-county vote could bind all the counties. The local taxing authority rests at the county level.”

Governor Deal, who last month endorsed the T-SPLOST, told WABE he will let the legislature decide whether to approve a delay.

“A lot of work has been done over the last several years to prepare for the referendum this summer.  But that was an initiative that started before I became governor, and I will follow the wishes of the general assembly as they address it.”

The Governor has said all of that before. But what he did not do was repeat the strong push he gave to lawmakers for the T-SPLOST during last months “Eggs and Issues” breakfast.

“The slate of projects in your region provides value.  And I want to ask you for your vote and for your help in getting the word out to your family and to your friends.”

T-SPLOST supporters worry that, after years of work, any delay or restructuring would kill the plan. Representative Setzler insists that’s not what he’s trying to do with a postponement and a consitutional amendment. But he claim his argument is reaching state leaders.

“There have been a lot of meetings going on at the capitol, at all levels, both with the governor’s staff and legislative leaders.  I do think there’s some concern about the issues I raised.”

WABE asked Governor Deal’s Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Robinson if the Governor continues to strongly support the T-SPLOST.  In an e-mail, Robinson replied, “He supports letting voters decide, local control, and dedicating a funding source that will get Georgians moving.  We must find solutions for the congestion that is choking our highways – and could choke our economy.”