Lowndes County Republicans and Valdosta Tea Party members continued their efforts Monday afternoon to defeat a proposed transportation sales tax during a press conference on the front steps of Valdosta City Hall.
With about a dozen in attendance, the event came in response to what they believed to be a letter by Gov. Nathan Deal, offering to campaign for local and statewide candidates who support the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST).
“It is unprecedented in Georgia politics for a governor to offer to get involved in local elections in a quid pro quo deal for support for this tax and offer support to a local candidate,” said Cox. “I think we need to nip that in the bud.”
The request in question was apparently released by Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson on Thursday, June 14, to the city’s mayor and council.
Hanson told The Times that he was never contacted by the Governor’s Office or Connect Georgia, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce organization lobbying for T-SPLOST.
“Last week, I received a call from a third party and I passed the information along to the elected officials,” Hanson said.
Connect Georgia’s Communications Director Cindy Miller said it was standard practice for an advocacy campaign to keep track of advocates across the state.
“We have had no communication with the Governor’s Office about this,” she told The Times. “We’re trying to get this thing passed in 11 districts and it’s important for us to know who supports this. I think that what we’re all caught up in is a simple matter of miscommunication.”
No one at City Hall is up for election in 2012, but there are 11 citizens running for various positions with the Lowndes County commission.
Lowndes County Commission Chairman Ashley Paulk said no one at the county has been notified by the Governor’s Office or Connect Georgia campaign with such a request.
Jim Galloway with the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently weighed in on the situation in a piece called, “Unwind your underwear about that naughty-or-nice list,” where he concludes that “threats of reprisal aren’t likely from Deal, given that as soon as the T-SPLOST campaign ends, a campaign to re-establish state authority to create charter schools begins.”
Back in January, the Lowndes County Republican Party voted unanimously to repeal the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.
“I’ll be 70 this year and this is the worst economy I’ve ever seen,” said Cox on Monday. “During a recession, you cut taxes, cut the size and scope of government and reduce expenses; you don’t do the opposite. I think it’s the wrong thing to do and the wrong time.”