Tea party challenges Ga. lawmakers on tax support

ATLANTA (AP) -- Is there a difference between raising taxes and supporting a ballot measure that would raise taxes?

Georgia tea party activists say no. And they are vowing to stir up trouble for state officials who campaign for a regional transportation tax before voters in November -- especially those who signed a pledge promising to oppose any efforts to increase taxes.

The split among Republicans could mean some sitting lawmakers will face a primary challenger, with tea party activists saying they will field candidates to oppose those who support the transportation tax. The activists say any official who campaigns for the transportation measure, including Gov. Nathan Deal, is violating his pledge not to raise taxes.

"There is no middle ground," said Debbie Dooley, national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots. "Voters really don't have a lot of patience with elected officials who break their promises from the campaign trail, and they will hold them accountable when they're up for re-election."

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown, who works with the Fayette County Issues Tea Party, said the county has been one of the most vocal opponents in the state on this issue. He put the consequences more plainly.

"Everybody who supported it has lost re-election in our county," Brown said. "If you go that way, you will not be in office very long."

Every member of the Legislature is up for re-election this fall, including House Speaker David Ralston.

The transportation tax plan, which passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature and was signed into law in June 2010, divides the state into groups. A regional roundtable has approved a $6.14 billion list of local transportation projects, and voters must decide whether to hike their sales tax by 1 cent to fund those projects.

Those who oppose the referendum say it would be the largest tax hike in state history and could become an unfair burden that favors some communities over others. But Deal, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and House and Senate leaders have backed the measure, and the governor and mayor say its passage is crucial to the economic prosperity of the region.

The governor, 14 senators and 40 representatives have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge authored by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a group that advocates against tax hikes.

Earlier this month, a letter addressed to Deal and signed by tea party activists from around the state raised concerns about Republican leaders' support for the transportation tax.

"The hard-working base that made every primary election vote count needs the leadership we were promised," the letter reads. "Thus far, we have found little to cheer about with the (transportation tax) and the elected officials who support it."

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said in a statement that Deal has kept his pledge to oppose tax increases, and that the referendum was passed before Deal was elected.

"The referendum adheres to the ideals that the Tea Party expresses: Giving voice to citizens and treating them all equally," Robinson said. "Those who want the referendum off the ballot need to explain why they want to silence the voice of voters."

House Speaker David Ralston has signaled that while he supports the transportation referendum, he will not try to persuade citizens to vote one way or the other. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is not up for re-election this year, said he has not decided if he will campaign on the issue.

Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, who voted in favor of the referendum two years ago, said there is a need to address transportation congestion in the state and find additional ways to fund road projects. He said the decision to let voters weigh in is a fair one.

"If I had just raised taxes without asking the people to vote, that'd be one issue," Williams said. "That's not what we did. We gave the people of Georgia the opportunity to determine for themselves if they think that need is valid, based on a project list. If they like that project list, they should support it."

Williams said the issue will not affect his re-election campaign this fall, and that he doesn't have a problem with tea party activists challenging those who would campaign in favor of the transportation tax.

"They're an interested group of taxpayers, and I'm happy they're there," he said. "They hold people accountable."


ptm4936 3 years, 8 months ago

"We the people" is popular among TEA party folks but their leaders complain about the TSPLOST that gives the power back to the people to decide whether or not to tax themselves. Even worse they distort the information about the issue and threaten public officials if they provide the facts so voters can make well informed choices.They don't seem to understand that public officials are expressly prohibited from campaigning for referendums. And their threats sound very much like the tactics of a school yard bully that we are trying very hard to eliminate from our schools and communities. It is disappointing to see a movement, so promising in the beginning, deteriorate into a platform for a few power hungry individuals.


BuzzG 3 years, 8 months ago

Politicians frequently talk the talk, but seldom walk the walk. It is good to see the Tea Party calling them out on it. They have gotten away with deceit all too often.


R 3 years, 8 months ago

ptm "public officials are expressly prohibited from campaigning for referendums" One only has to look around for about ten minutes to see that this position is patently false and enforced less than the 55 mile/hour speed limits...

The power to tax ourselves has ALWAYS resided with the people, our state leaders didn't grant ANY favors...

Actually encouraging primary choices is the best way over time to develop leaders that are desperately needed. The days of the “Tom Murphy School of Governance” should be coming to a close. Hopefully those under the dome will start getting that message by their own choice or the ballot box.


ACC12_SEC13Booster 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with much of the Tea Party has to say about our highly-esteemed legislators breaking their campaign promises not to raise taxes as virtually every Republican candidate signs a pledge not to raise taxes when they run for office, which means that one can infer that virtually all Republican state legislators in the GOP-dominated Georgia General Assembly have signed pledges not to raise taxes.

But Metro Atlanta and North Georgia also has a worsening traffic congestion and mobility problem that has pretty much gone completely unaddressed by the state for the better part of two decades during a period of an unfathomable amount of crushing population growth that has completely overwhelmed an increasingly undersized and outdated infrastructure.

It's no secret that the T-SPLOST is highly flawed and very much suspect as to the actually intention and ability of the bill to address our infamous traffic congestion and mobility issues (Will the tax become just another revenue stream for greedy politicians' perennially-increasing personal slush funds, which is a problem with most SPLOSTs?). For the Tea Party to cement public opinion in their favor and have the most credibility on the issue of transportation funding, the Tea party urgently needs to come up with their very own alternative plan for addressing all of Georgia's numerous increasingly critical and long-neglected transportation needs that does not involve tax increases.

The Tea Party has to do more than just rant against tax increases in the face of worsening transportation needs if they are to effectively stop the momentum of this highly-flawed and somewhat misguided transportation referendum as the political establishment and pro-TSPLOST interests will be able to easily discredit and even demonize anti-TSPLOST interests as being against tax increases while ignoring an obvious transportation problem of a gargantuan scale.

It's not enough for the Tea Party and anti-TSPLOST interests to oppose the tax increase, they absolutely MUST come up with their own credible alternative plan that addresses Georgia's (specifically, the Atlanta Region's) overwhelmingly numerous and growing transportation and traffic issues that does not involve increasing taxes.


HonestIngine 3 years, 8 months ago

In my humble opinion, its time for Gwinnett to get NEW LEGISLATORS and leaders. Out with Coleman, Rice, Murphy, Millar, Knox... They have only one thing in common, their own personal interest. This state government NEEDS TERM LIMITS. Coleman and Rice have been around since the Depression.... MOVE OVER BOYS and let HONEST LEADERS LEAD.


jack 3 years, 8 months ago

I agree with term limits. Politicians should be limited to two terms; one in the Legislature and one in prison.


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