Fri., August 26, 2011 10:09am (EDT)

Transportation Vote in Limbo
By Jeanne Bonner
Updated: 3 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
Lawmakers were expected to shift a transportation tax vote during this summer's special legislative session. But disagreements over the future of all such tax votes led Gov. Nathan Deal to say there won't be enough time in the session to handle the matter. That leaves the state-wide transportation tax vote in July 2012, when supporters worry not enough people will show up at the polls. (Photo credit: Jeanne Bonner).
Lawmakers were expected to shift a transportation tax vote during this summer's special legislative session. But disagreements over the future of all such tax votes led Gov. Nathan Deal to say there won't be enough time in the session to handle the matter. That leaves the state-wide transportation tax vote in July 2012, when supporters worry not enough people will show up at the polls. (Photo credit: Jeanne Bonner).
Gov. Nathan Deal says there’s not enough time during the special session to tackle a regional transportation tax vote. Lawmakers could reconsider the issue in January but that looks unlikely.

When Gov. Deal called the session for redistricting, he also asked lawmakers to move the date of a transportation tax vote from the primary to the November 2012 general election. He said that would allow more Georgians to vote on the tax.

But once discussions began, some Republican lawmakers said they would only support the change if the legislature moved all such future tax votes to general elections.

The Tea Party supports that position. And Deal says while he agrees, that’s not on the special session agenda.

“The Tea Party and I agree that having [votes] of this type on a general election time frame is an appropriate time frame for that to happen," Deal said. "But obviously, it was not in the original call to contemplate broadening it beyond this particular T-SPLOST vote.”

T-SPLOST stands for transportation special purpose local option sales tax. The special session's agenda includes amending the transportation vote, but only its date. Deal reiterated that moving the tax vote to November would be preferable. But he said the legislation was enacted before he became Governor, and if lawmakers are satisfied with the date, that's fine with him.

Many transportation sales tax boosters say not enough people will go to the polls in July when the vote will take place.

But Stacey Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat, says while she supports the date change, she's against moving all future sales tax votes to general elections.

“The State of Georgia has held as its core value local control and I don’t believe this legislature should be able to determine the destiny of cities and counties and school districts without their say,” she said.

Deal says the next move is up to lawmakers. But House Speaker David Ralston said it’s not a priority.

That means the vote is likely to remain part of the July primary election, when all parties agree fewer voters go to the polls.