Mike Boyce, an east Cobb resident, announced Tuesday that he will join incumbent Chairman Tim Lee and Bill Byrne, who served as commission chairman from 1992 to 2002, in the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. The primary is scheduled for July 31, with the general election on Nov. 6.
Boyce opposed the extension of the penny sales tax that won approval by just 71 votes on March 15. But he said he was most offended by Lee’s statements that passing the $492 million SPLOST could avert a millage rate increase, only to have commissioners vote to increase property taxes later in the year.
“I believe that if we had done good budget development, that wouldn’t have been necessary,” Boyce, 62, said.
But Lee said Tuesday that Boyce’s memory is “inaccurate” about his SPLOST statements.
“I never said that,” Lee said.
Boyce points to his experience overseeing budgets in the military as proof that he can get the county fiscally shaped up. He said he was alarmed to find out that the county puts 71 percent of its budget toward personnel costs.
“As a budgeter, once that number gets above 60 percent, I start looking at that,” Boyce said. “At 70 percent, there’s some really serious red flags. I’m concerned about the direction we’re going.”
But Boyce, who spent nearly 30 years in the Marines, said he couldn’t say exactly what he would cut until he was elected and got to take a closer look at the budget.
“The devil is in the details, and they are not available to me,” he said.
Boyce said he would likely oppose any SPLOST elections if he were elected. Though he declined to criticize anyone specifically, he called out Republicans who raise taxes in order to spend more money on projects, saying he longed for the days when the Democrats were the only ones looking to tax and spend.
“The problem now is…I thought you were a Republican,” Boyce said. “Why would you advocate for tax increases?”
Boyce also criticized the TSPLOST transportation sales tax, which voters in a 10-county region will vote on the same day as the primary. He fears what could happen if taxpayers have to subsidize and unprofitable light rail line.
“I just think that it’s a poor way to handle a given need,” Boyce said. “Cobb has a consistent history of wanting to address its needs, but do it in a reasonable manner.”
Boyce did voice his support for the county giving tax incentives and other inducements to companies looking to set up shop in Cobb.
“We’re in a competition with every major city in America,” he said. “We have to do whatever you have to do legally to get people to come look at you…This isn’t 1990 and it is not 2000. This is a very difficult economy and you have to do whatever you can.”
In order to set himself apart from the field, Boyce said he will rely on a base of veterans – many of whom he has helped to find needed services through work with Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church and organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Atlanta Regional Military Affairs Council.
Boyce called Byrne a “class act,” saying the former chairman welcomed him to the race by proclaiming “the more the merrier.”
When reached Tuesday afternoon, Byrne acknowledged wishing Boyce well, but said he was disappointed about how the newcomer responded when Byrne pressed Boyce on the issues. Byrne said that when he made a proposal to save the county money during the budget process, Boyce was silent.
“Credibility at this point is Mike’s responsibility,” Byrne said. “I have a track record. Tim Lee has a track record. Nobody on the face of the earth in Cobb has any idea who Mike Boyce is.”
Byrne sees Boyce as well behind in the race.
“He’s got a lot of catching up to do and I don’t think he can do it,” Byrne said.
Lee said he is currently working on his campaign strategy and will reveal it as it is executed.
“I think the more candidates that are available for the citizens to choose from, the better,” he said.
Boyce said he plans to use his military experience to get the county’s ship in order.
“We communicated very well with our troops,” Boyce said. “It’s all about relationships. When I say that I can look at the budget, it’s from an experience level.”