“The lawsuit was silly and in poor form. If we were to treat it credibly, it should have been handled credibly”
The other day I mentioned, well, I didn’t even mention, I just linked to a Telegraph story that Judge Christian dismissed a lawsuit challenging the special purpose local option sales tax (“SPLOST”). You can see for yourself here. That brought out the wrath of the person who filed the challenge who has filled out several threads with comments attacking me for relaying information and giving opinions with which she disagrees, oh, and for admitting truths she disagrees with.
Here, for example, I pointed out that the person in question, while sticking to principle and being well meaning, was going to come across as a sore loser. More power for her sticking to principle, but these latest comments are more diatribe than anything else.
As she points out, she missed a deadline. But, she also says there were “contestable violations” because, in particular, the governments involved said they would either roll back or stay property tax increases — something they have, to their credit, done. This is a specious argument. To buttress the point, she says I should read the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia (“ACCG”) 2005 SPLOST guide, available here (PDF). In fact, I am quite familiar with the guide.
No doubt her principle argument is based on this passage
Can SPLOST funds be used to reduce property taxes? Yes, but not directly. Although counties cannot directly include a property tax rollback as an eligible expenditure on their referendum, counties can use SPLOST funds to pay for capital outlay projects that would otherwise be funded through property tax revenues.
Neither the County nor the City “directly include[d] a property tax rollback . . . on their referendum.” Most certainly they said that passage of the SPLOST would mean property taxes would not be increased and might mean property taxes would be decreased. But, that is not directly including a rollback in the referendum. In point of fact, the referendum did not include a property tax rollback.
Now that we’ve dismissed the specious argument, let’s move on to the funny fatuous argument.
You see, does buying votes or bribing voters for votes in anyway lead you to tie the connection that this is in effect a direct promotion of the SPLOST? . . . . If you offer property owners a tax cut to vote for a SPLOST, can you not see that you have disfranchised the 30 to 40% of residents in Bibb County that are renters? I have thick skin, but I am not going to sit back and take any crap from a lawyer or anyone else that wants to snicker and put out false reports that this election contest had no merit.
Oh, where do I begin? First, I never said the “election contest has no merit.” In fact, I said when it was filed that it was on principle and I made zero editorial comments when linking to the article saying the case had been tossed.
Second, telling property tax owners they’ll get a tax cut if the SPLOST is passed may be bribery to my commenter, but it is also the truth. The County did not raise property taxes and the City is cutting property taxes. They are keeping their word, which they should be applauded for instead of challenged in court.
As for disenfranchising the “30 to 40% of residents in Bibb County that are renters”, that is a non sequitur. If we follow that to its logical conclusion, renters are disenfranchised when property taxes go up and go down. Likewise, property owners, who have no vote when their property taxes go up are also disenfranchised because they lack the power to prevent the property tax increase. But, both the property tax owner and the renter can vote for or against a SPLOST. Because they can vote they are not disenfranchised. I’ll leave aside altogether the absurdity of the argument in light of out of county taxpayers who enter the county and buy something and must pay a sales tax. Again, non sequitur.
I try to be polite with commenters. In fact, I generally do not get into the comments and debate the commenters. I let them have their say. But, this particular commenter asks
why don’t you be bold enough to admit the truth?
So, here is the truth. I did not vote for the SPLOST, but the lawsuit was silly and in poor form. If we were to treat it credibly, it should have been handled credibly, including not missing important deadlines. The arguments in its favor are, at best, a misreading of the ACCG book — secondary material and not legal authority — and at worst a willing smear of the elected officials who put forward the SPLOST to help relieve serious economic troubles in Bibb County, not to mention the overwhelming amount of support the SPLOST got at the polls.
Interestingly, leaving aside the arguments for or against the SPLOST, the basic fact is still the same. Bibb County has a lower sales tax than all but one other county in Georgia. At the same time it faces serious economic problems, a government which refuses to cut spending in the city, and a government that sees no problems in raising property taxes to pay for their pork whoring, which in turn drives out the residents most able to pay taxes. It is a sick cycle and no doubt my commenter and I can agree on that and both work to condemn silly and wasteful government spending in the face of real economic problems in Macon and Bibb County.