For the moment, the state Department of Transportation is holding fast to its decision last week to reverse a change in its accounting practices, in defiance of the state auditor.
The board held a special meeting Thursday to revisit the issue, but after an hour of contentious debate, DOT Board Chairman Bill Kuhlke failed 8-3 to get the board to rescind the vote it took last week.
The board did make it official to delay the reversal until July 1. DOT is seeking an opinion on the issue from the state Attorney General, Thurbert Baker, which board members hope to have before July 1. If Baker tells them to stop, the issue would apparently be moot.
Last week’s vote could affect how and when DOT spends hundreds of millions of road work dollars.
The state auditor’s office in reports over the last two years said that DOT was illegally booking revenue it couldn’t book yet, enabling it to spend more than it really should. The auditors declared DOT in a huge deficit, and road spending slowed to a trickle.
Kuhlke argued that even if the accounting change were delayed to July 1, the cloud hanging over the department’s head could hurt Georgia’s bond rating and cost it money in higher interest rates. Board Member David Doss replied that even after the auditor’s searing reports publicized DOT accounting troubles, Georgia’s bond rating had remained stellar.
“Why can’t we just wait [to authorize the reversal], and if we get the A.G.’s opinion, and if it’s in favor, then we begin to implement it?” Kuhlke asked.
“We have been wrestling with this issue for 22 months,” Doss said. “It has put thousands of Georgians out of work.”