GOP, the Pro-Tax, Pro-Regulation Bunch
By: Kelly Burke 04/11/2015
Were I King, the Doobie Brothers, ELO and Cheap Trick would be in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.
You would think that the Georgia Republican Party would be against THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY, but alas, there was a payoff involved. That’s right, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) paid off the very legislators that you sent to Atlanta to “do no harm.” At least, that’s the plank they run on. In Houston County, newly elected Heath Clark, representing the 147th District (essentially North Houston County) didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to write GDOT a check for an extra $1 BILLION dollars, on top of the $2.5 BILLION they already get. The rest of our legislators, they understood that GDOT would pay them off, so an overwhelming majority of them voted for THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY.
What, pray tell, was the payoff? Roads. Bridges. Toll Lanes. Bypasses. Sidewalks. Even some critter crossings. Yes, that infrastructure improvement was what was promised to each and every legislator in exchange for voting for THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY.
Kelly, roads and bridges, sidewalks and critter crossings, aren’t those good things? Sure they are. And that is what sold the tax increase without any public discussion. However, my complaint, and I’ve heard it in hundreds of comments made to me, is the way it was done. Remember just two years ago that the Legislature gave Georgia the chance to vote for a transportation tax for different districts? It went down in flames in 9 out of 12 districts, sometimes as much as 2-1 against it. Turns out Georgian’s were not in favor of giving GDOT an expanding purse with the way that things stood.
So what changed in two years? Nothing. GDOT did nothing to show us that they were going to clean up their act. But GDOT got smart. They convinced a small, special group of legislators that we had an EMERGENCY! That without an extra $1 BILLION a year, bridges would fail and babies would die.
Did you see that special report done by that legislative committee? Probably not since you didn’t know about it, but I’ve read it and found it to be a bunch of self serving tripe done by GDOT to expand their empire. There was not one reference to a failing bridge or road anywhere in the report. To be fair, there were some regional meetings held around the state, held during the middle of your work day so as not to inconvenience the paid staffers of GDOT. That it was inconvenient for you was of no concern. I wish they had bothered to post minutes of those meetings, but they did not.
Instead of trying to convince Georgians that babies would die unless we did something BIG, GDOT greased the big wheel, known as the political machine. There being no public uproar, since no one knew about the report, GDOT turned the issue around. The big hullabaloo was HOW was the Legislature going to raise the $1 BILLION, not IF it would happen.
When Rep. Regina Quick (R-Athens) asked GDOT for the data to support the emergency, GDOT sent her a letter asking for $100,000 to supply that information. I am not joking. Why would they do that to a State Representative? Because they had the votes they needed without her, or Rep. Heath Clark, or the handful of fiscally conservative Representatives who all voted against THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY.
So what do you get for your $BILLIONS? Oh, they’ll make a big show out of all the new projects they’re going to build. They’ll talk about “shovel ready” programs to put Georgians to work. And those State Senators and State Reps who voted for THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY will be present for a photo op at each turn of the shovel.
The last kick in the pants? Some of the Senators and Representatives complained to the party bosses, as the session wound down, about the bosses failure to follow legislative rules in order to cram this down our throats. They were ignored. THE BIGGEST TAX INCREASE IN GEORGIA HISTORY was just too important for anyone to follow the rules.
Now you know why GDOT doesn’t get too worked up about following the rules. They learned it from the best.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He writes about the law, rock’n’roll and politics. These articles are not designed to give legal advice, but are designed to inform the public about how the law affects their daily lives. Contact Kelly at email@example.com