As local officials line up behind the transportation sales tax referendum, or T-SPLOST, I continue to doubt the public will join the parade.
The referendum, on July 31 ballots, will allow voters across the state to approve an additional 1-percent sales tax, with the money going to transportation projects.
Some folks have attacked lawmakers for merely putting the issue on the ballot, but I certainly don’t want to complain when voters are given a direct say in their own taxation. Surely none of the opponents would prefer to not be allowed to vote?
That argument is moot anyway. It’s on the ballot. If anyone wants to oppose the issue, it’s up to them to persuade voters to agree.
Already, those who want the T-SPLOST are planning to take their sales pitch to the public.
The first airing of their strategy locally came last fall during the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Pre-Legislative Breakfast. There, Georgia’s director of economic development said T-SPLOST was vital for upgrading the state’s infrastructure to handle increased freight traffic from the deepening of the Savannah Harbor.
That won’t fit on a bumper sticker.
But on Thursday, at the chamber’s Post-Legislative Breakfast, most of the lawmakers made at least a reference in support of T-SPLOST as a tool for economic development.
It’s fitting that the topic got a few mentions at the chamber breakfast, because the chamber is planning to provide a sales pitch for the referendum. They’ll hold two public hearings on T-SPLOST: at 6 p.m. June 6 at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center, and at 6 p.m. July 24 in the government center auditorium.
Will it sell? I still don’t think so. I just don’t see voters approving a tax hike on themselves these days.
Once the sales pitch cranks up, I’ll be curious to see whether an effort organizes to defeat the referendum here, similar to those underway in Atlanta.
Back in December, Columbia County Chief Magistrate Bobby Christine said he wouldn’t seek re-election. He’s a lieutenant colonel in the Georgia National Guard, and said he was told he’d be called to active duty this year.
That call came last week. As announced during Thursday’s Chamber meeting, Christine is going on active duty as of May 14.
Unlike his previous callups, when he served in Iraq, this time he’ll be taking the place of an active-duty Jag Corps soldier who is being sent to Afghanistan. Christine likely will be posted to Atlanta.
Going back on active duty prevents him from running for office, and because he’s an attorney who will have to put his practice on hold, it also will squeeze his wallet. But getting posted just down the road certainly eases the burden.
Now: Will the folks who doubted his reason for declining to seek re-election crawl back out of the woodwork to admit they were wrong?
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/