The bill, which failed in a 92-78 vote, would have allowed counties to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent per dollar spent.
Cobb County Chairman Tim Lee, who has pushed for the legislation along with others such as the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, was less than pleased.
“I’m dumbfounded as to why the legislators won’t give local control to the local governments who have a responsibility of managing the programs, dumbfounded,” Lee said.
Lee believes the bill failed because certain rural counties and cities were afraid they couldn’t work together to carry out a SPLOST program.
“My understanding is that the Democrats also voted against it and I don’t understand that either,” Lee said.
Of Cobb’s 15 state representatives only Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) voted no.
The Georgia Municipal Association, which represents cities, also opposed the bill.
“It puts some gamesmanship into the negotiations for SPLOST and in some ways pits cities and counties against each other when it’s really not necessary,” said GMA spokeswoman Amy Henderson. “It changes the negotiations from just what is going to be on the ballot to how much does each side need.”
Henderson said Cobb County is one of the fortunate few that is able to collect a sales tax quickly within a SPLOST cycle.
“Other counties, their five or six years will run out, and they have not collected what they needed for the projects that were on the list,” Henderson said.
Lee said Cobb collects $120 million a year, which is enough to pay for a particular project in full. Other counties may only collect $20 million or $40 million a year, taking multiple years to collect enough to do one big project like a courthouse. But Lee said Carson’s bill requires all cities in a county to agree before a SPLOST is placed before voters.
“I’m just saying in my county I’d like to have the option to approach funding needs differently and to not allow me to do that, I don’t know why,” Lee said. “There’s no rational reason as to why you can’t support allowing local counties to work their own financial models.”
Possible revote coming State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) said there is still hope. Carson plans to ask the House for a revote Monday.
“I think he and other supporters have a chance to kind of allay people’s concerns and be comfortable before the revote on Monday,” Setzler said.
There are many lawmakers who are “on the fence” about the bill, Setzler said.
“A lot of small local governments fear their voters, and they’re fearful that if some counties have half penny SPLOSTs that they’ll be pressured for them to have half penny SPLOSTs. A number of small local governments think they’ve got a good thing and why would they want to change it.”
Carson has said at least 22 of the 37 states that have local sales taxes allow a fractional rate. If counties chose to reduce their SPLOST rate by a half of 1 percent, it could easily save the average Georgia family $80 to $100 a year.
He pledged to try and overcome the opposition.
“I knew that the government lobbyists were working against me, and I was still hoping for passage the first time, but I’m keeping my chin up and moving forward, and we’re going to do what we can to seek a consensus where we can and see if we can do it again,” he said.
Cobb Chamber Chairman Ben Mathis said his organization remains committed to supporting the fractional SPLOST.
“We believe it provides important alternatives for officials to consider and is an alternative that many taxpayers would support,” Mathis said. “We appreciate the support of our many Cobb legislators on this important issue.”