Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday evening gave his strongest endorsement yet of a sales tax for transportation, pushing back against those who have criticized him for betraying a no-tax pledge by declaring that he hadn’t signed away his First Amendment rights.
At issue is a Americans for Tax Reform pledge that Deal signed in 2010, as a candidate for governor, that said he would “would oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
On the 18th floor of an Atlantic Station building, at a rally of corporate fundraisers, Deal – with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at his side — offered this defense:
”First of all, the pledge relates to new taxes that were going to be initiated by legislative action. And as you know, the only tax reform and tax changes that have been initiated since I’ve been governor have been to cut taxes. Last year was a major example of that, to be able to eliminate the sales tax on energy for manufacturing, so we can create more jobs. To increase by $2,000 the couples’ exemptions on their tax returns, to eliminate the marriage tax penalty.
“Now, for those who would interpret [the pledge] that way, I have two things to say. First of all, I never signed a pledge to give away my First Amendment rights. And my First Amendment rights are to advocate whatever I see fit. And as an individual, I do advocate for it.
“Secondly, as a governor, I am advocating for it because this is not a legislatively imposed tax. It is a tax increase that the people themselves will decide about. And for those who say otherwise, it seems to me that they would take away the right of the people to express their opinions of this importance.”
Was this the right time to ask voters for a tax increase? a reporter asked the governor. His reply:
”I’m not asking them, other than to ask them to use their good conscience and to use their good judgment to decide whether or not, in their region, the projects that are proposed to be funded are worthwhile to them, to their families, to their businesses, and to their region. These projects are the kinds of things that not only sustain communities, they also enrich communities by providing more job opportunities.
“And as you know, that has been the top priority for my administration – the creation of new jobs. New jobs are not going to come if people can’t get their employees to their jobs in a timely fashion.”
Afterwards, I asked Cagle if he, too, had felt the push-back from the Grover Norquist contingent of the Republican party. His reply:
”I learned early in my political career, when you do the right thing, you follow your convictions, you don’t have to worry about the consequences. Certainly there are those that disagree with my position. And that’s okay.
“But everyone knows where I stand. I’m about Georgia. I love this state, and I think this is a very historic moment, no different than the big bold steps we’ve taken with the ports and the airport and even MARTA…. The ability to announce to the world that we have an $8 billion investment going into transportation is big news.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider