A local tea party leader is at the center of a controversy over the Atlanta regional Transportation Investment Act vote, scheduled for July 31.
Proponents of the tax called out Debbie Dooley, the Dacula woman who is a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, for endorsing a raise in the gasoline taxes over the proposed 1-percent sales tax.
But Dooley said her comments at a recent Civic League forum were taken out of context and her position was skewed.
She said her organization supports a gas tax hike only if elected officials prove they can use the tax dollars wisely, there is no other option to raise money for road projects, and the increase comes only after gas prices have decreased.
"They have run a misleading campaign from the beginning," Dooley said of the Citizens for Transportation Mobility campaign.
The group issues a press release blasting Dooley for the comments, just days after Gov. Nathan Deal stopped a scheduled gas tax increase.
"We have been waiting on the opposition to come up with their 'Plan B' and we now see that they want to build more toll roads, raise gas taxes and take away the power of citizens to vote on a specific project list," said Che Watkins, campaign manager for the advocacy group. "We are frankly shocked that a Tea Party leader would advocate for higher permanent taxes with less public accountability."
While the per-gallon excise tax on gas has not been raised in decades, the per dollar sales tax on gas rises and falls every six months based on the average price of gas. In a press release, campaign officials said the gas tax would need to be increased by 25 cents per gallon to raise an equivalent amount of funds for transportation as the July 31 referendum will raise.
Dooley said the press release was a sign that the advocacy group was "desperate," because polls show support of the referendum slipping.
She said tea party groups across the state are against the transportation sales tax because of local control issues, since once county could vote down the tax but be forced to pay it because of other communities, and other problems. The metro Atlanta list, she said, is "fiscally irresponsible," because it does not fund all projects to completion and would impose more maintenance costs, and it would force people who do not use public transit to support the system.
Dem challenger signs ethics pledge
With two Republican challengers already calling out Sen. Don Balfour for a recent ethical controversy, a Democrat, who will face the winner of the July 31 GOP primary, wants voters to know he has the integrity to take over the job.
"I can no longer stand silently on the sidelines. Democracy is not a spectator sport and public office is about service, not feathering one's own special interest nest," Scott Drake, a lawyer, said in a press release. "I have a personal and professional interest in seeing that justice prevails. The culture of corruption that exists within Gwinnett County at all levels will cease only when we challenge those who would try to bend circumstances in their own favor and for personal gain. Public service means putting constituents first."
While Balfour is facing a Senate investigation into claims he sought per diem reimbursements on days he was not in the state, Drake said he would support a law banning all gifts from lobbyists and require both the executive and legislative branches of government to be subject to open records laws.
"While I am proud to sign the pledge to support and co-sponsor legislation that would create a $100 gift limit on lobbyists, I don't believe that goes far enough to curtail the abuses of power we have all seen or read about. The time has come to restore integrity to politics," Drake said. "Our government should not be for sale." Drake said.
Drake is former prosecutor who now works as a partner in the Sliz Law Firm.
Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Camie Young can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/politics.