The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax got beaten at the polls on July 31. It got beaten bad. So bad, in fact, that Governor Nathan Deal backed off on a pledge to bring the measure back for another vote. Unfortunately, many missed that hidden within the measure passed by the General Assembly was a stick that opponents say was designed to punish regions that voted against the T-SPLOST.
Within the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (also known as TIA or HB 277) was a stipulation that if a region voted against T-SPLOST, as most regions within the state did, then that region would be penalized of its fuel tax by 30 percent. The idea, opponents say, was to put a punishment in place to pressure regions to accept T-SPLOST.
This was missed by many in the discussion regarding the additional one percent tax. After all, most SPLOSTs cover a specific set of expenditures, and are often things that should the electorate vote down SPLOST, they just don’t get done. This time, it appears to be different.
Many in the state have asked Governor Deal to use his power of executive order to suspect this part of the unpopular legislation. Deal’s office responded, stating, “The Governor swore to uphold the laws and constitution of the state of Georgia; There is no provision allowing him to suspend a law such as this through executive order, outside of some emergency scenario.” They went on to argue that conservatives have criticized President Obama for using executive orders to push through new regulations.
Now it appears to rest in the hands of the General Assembly. They have the power to remove the penalty, though it is unclear whether any of the members have any inclination to do so. However, no moves can be made before the General Assembly convenes in January.