MARIETTA — Most Republican elected officials who represent Cobb County say they intend to vote no
on July 31 to the question of raising the sales tax for 10 years to pay for transportation projects.
County Chairman Tim Lee, who helped pick the projects Cobb would receive if the tax passes, refused to say how he will vote.
Referring to himself in the third person, Lee said, “Chairman Lee felt that his vote, how he voted was one he didn’t want to share, but he supports the referendum and the people’s choice to decide their future.”
For the most part, Democrats in Cobb said they would be voting for the tax although some, like state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), remain undecided.
State Rep. Stacey Evans (D-Smyrna) said she will be voting yes.
“Traffic in metro Atlanta is out of control,” Evans said, echoing the ad campaign promoting the tax hike. “There is no Plan B. We’re drowning in traffic and our competitor cities know it, and the only way we can move forward and continue to be a world-class city is if we pass this and show that we’re serious about fixing our traffic problems.”
Yet lawmakers such as state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), chairman of the Cobb Legislative Delegation, argue there is indeed a “Plan B” outlined in the legislation, and that is simply to vote down the current referendum, come up with a better list of road improvements and approve it in two years.
Lawmakers such as state Rep. Don Parsons (R-east Cobb) dismiss the argument that simply because they voted for the legislation to allow for the referendum back in 2010, they have to vote for the project list on July 31 as well.
“We set up a mechanism for the regions to come up with project lists to present to the voters,” Parsons said. “That’s what they’ve done, and we didn’t have anything to do with the project list. I did not put that project list together. I didn’t have any input into the project list, and you know, it’s not my project list, so therefore there are certain problems with it, and there are certain things I’d like to see that are not there, certain things on there I’d like to see changed, so therefore I’m going to cast a no vote.”
State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-east Cobb), who remains undecided, said she’s tired of the rhetoric on both sides.
“I do have serious reservations about a couple of the high-cost items included in Cobb’s list by Commissioner Lee and Mayor Mathews,” Cooper said. “I am outright angered by the consultant, and anyone else, who says that people’s opposition is due to racism.”
At the same time, Cooper said it’s overly optimistic to believe that the state legislature can pass another, more acceptable, plan anytime soon.
Cobb’s five commissioners are split on the vote.
Republican commissioners Bob Ott and JoAnn Birrell say they plan to vote no, Lee and Helen Goreham, also Republicans, won’t reveal how they’re voting, while Commissioner Woody Thompson, a Democrat, didn’t return calls on the question.
Birrell said she wasn’t telling anyone how to vote, but for her, she will be voting no.
“I’m not in favor of another tax,” Birell said.
Like the commissioners, the mayors of Cobb’s six cities are split, with Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins opposed to the tax; Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon planning to vote in favor; and Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn saying they are undecided.
“I’m undecided because I don’t think it hits a home run in Marietta, but overall does it, and that’s what I won’t take up until the 31st,” Tumlin said on Friday.
Jerkins said his decision is clear.
“I’m going to vote against it because they won’t do what they say they’re going to do with it anyway,” the Austell mayor said. “That’s what I don’t like about it, plus the part where the counties and the cities just get 15 percent, that’s not right either. It should be divided halfway, the way I look at it.”
The tax would collect $7.2 billion in the 10 county metro area. Of that amount, $6.14 billion worth of projects were chosen by the Atlanta Regional Roundtable. The remaining 15 percent or $1.1 billion would be chosen at the local level.
Cobb’s portion of the 85 percent is $984 million and Cobb’s portion of the 15 percent is $178 million.
Factoring in inflation, the total collection for the 10 county area rises to $8.5 billion, Atlanta Regional Commission spokesman Jim Jaquish said.
In the U.S. Senate, Saxby Chambliss (R-Moultrie) and Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) both say they will vote for the TSPLOST.
In the U.S. House, Tom Price (R-Roswell) says he is undecided, while a spokesman for U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-South Cobb) said on Friday Scott is voting for the tax.
Jen Talaber, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), sent the following email Friday.
“Rep. Gingrey respects the will of the voters, and believes that they are the ones who should determine the fate of their communities — not politicians. As a federal official, he remains focused on the issues in front of the United States Congress. The congressman trusts the ability of our citizens to evaluate their community’s infrastructure needs, economic development potential and traffic congestion.”
Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Most Cobb GOP officials standing against TSPLOST