When Carson’s bill went through the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), it was amended to allow for multiple special purpose local option sales taxes to be levied at the same time, provided they add up to no more than 1 percent.
That means if Cobb County wanted to do a half a cent on the dollar tax for six years, and upon reaching year three decided the other half cent was needed, the Senate amendment would allow the county to ask voters to approve that additional half cent.
The Senate passed the bill 36 to 14 on Tuesday. Of the six senators who represent Cobb, Judson Hill, Hunter Hill (R-Smyrna) and Bruce Thompson (R-White) voted in favor, Horacena Tate (D-Atlanta) voted no, Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) was excused and Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) didn’t vote.
Tippins said he favors either version of the bill, but was absent because he was working on an education bill at the time of the vote.
“I’m not opposed to a fractional penny SPLOST as long as the voters have to approve it,” Tippins said. “I think the commissioners or Board of Education need the latitude to make a determination on whatever they feel like is the best interest of the district or the county, and it’s their job to make a convincing argument to the voters, but there’s a lot of difference between mandating a SPLOST and giving them the opportunity to do it. I really think a fractional penny SPLOST makes sense.”
Carson’s bill would only apply to county and city SPLOST programs.
When the bill returned to the House, which had already approved Carson’s original bill, Carson went to the well to disagree with the Senate version.
There is now a standoff, with either the Senate or House needing to pass the other chamber’s version or work out the difference in a conference committee, Carson said.
A deal must be struck by the last day of the session Thursday for the bill to survive.
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) was one of the Democrats who voted in favor of the bill. Commenting on why the Senate changed the bill, Wilkerson said, “As far as I know, I think it’s just a difference of opinion. I don’t think this is one of the bills caught in the final day politics.”