Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and other Republican legislative leaders on Tuesday confirmed that they have abandoned plans to put a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would have paved the way for a sales tax directed at roads and rail.
Also finished: the two-year argument over whether to ask voters to approve a statewide tax for the purpose, or allow specific regions like metro Atlanta to levy the penny.
House Majority Leader Jerry Keen said that, while road and rail projects in Georgia remain in desperate need of additional and permanent funding, a statewide sales tax isn’t the answer. Nor did Keen think the measure would pass his chamber – as it did last year, when pushed by Speaker Glenn Richardson.
The November 2010 ballot has served as both a goal for lawmakers, and a cushion. Last year, House and Senate leaders pointed to the fact that they had one more session as one reason for not coming two terms.
Both Keen and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers doubted that any statewide referendum to permit a sales tax for transportation, no matter how preliminary, would be approved by voters – given the current economy.
Neither lawmaker mentioned another dynamic that has entered the Republican political picture: A tea party movement that could generate July primary opposition for some GOP lawmakers, should the measure be characterized as a Legislature-imposed tax increase.
As an alternative, Republican lawmakers think they may be able to find a way – through statute – to permit counties (read “metro Atlanta”) to band together to create tax districts and hold separate referendums to levy taxes.
That appears to look somewhat like the position pushed during the past two legislative sessions by Cagle and the Senate. Language in any measure would have to allow a sales tax to be in place for more than five years, if it is to be applied to MARTA or other commuter rail.
But Democrats (and some Republicans) question whether creation of new tax districts by statute would be constitutional. “I don’t see how it would be,” said Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown of Macon.
A simple statute, of course, would only need a majority vote, as opposed to the two-thirds required by a constitutional amendment.
Gov. Sonny Perdue may address the topic in his state-of-the-state address this morning.
In today’s Savannah Morning News, Larry Peterson makes this point:
Roy Barnes backed a 2000 law that let him raise almost an additional $1.6 million more last year for his ongoing campaign for governor.
The measure lifted the old lid of $1,000 on contributions in non-election years; it’s now $6,100 per election, regardless of the year.
The former Democratic governor reported last week that he raised $2.7 million during the second half of 2009.
Not counting contributions by himself and his wife, he listed 530 donations of more than $1,000, totaling $2,102,003.74.
Under the old law, they would have been limited to a total of no more than $530,000 — or $1,000 each.
The (now) re-election organization of Secretary of State Brian Kemp claims to be the first statewide campaign to have a ground game in all 159 Georgia counties.
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