McDONOUGH — Two candidates in the Republican Primary for chairman of the Henry County Board of Commissioners have announced opposition to the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) referendum.
Jane Askew Rutledge, a teacher and businesswoman, said she believes approval of the T-SPLOST will negatively affect other tax programs in Henry in the coming years.
Former Hampton Mayor, Tommy N. Smith, said he too opposes the measure because he said it gives residents a portion of the revenues gleaned from its passage, while SPLOSTs leave all revenues in the county.
Incumbent Henry County Commission Chairman, Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis, was a member of the group that helped to formulate the referendum proposal.
Smith said the T-SPLOST proposal presents a “raw deal” for Henry County residents. “There ain’t no gray area around me. I’m adamantly against it.”
Mathis served on the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Regional Roundtable for the T-SPLOST, and said she did so because of requirements in state law.
“That same law does not allow any county to opt out,” said Mathis. “It was important for me to assure the county received our fair portion in return, should the referendum pass. I worked very hard on this committee and did not miss a single meeting in the seven-month process to assure that Henry County would receive an almost 100 percent return if the referendum passes.
“I encourage citizens to go to the referendum web site for information pertaining to the proposed project list before casting their ballot,” urged Mathis. “The advantage of the referendum being on the ballot is that voters can determine if this is a tax they wish to enact for transportation improvements in the region.”
Rutledge, however, is steadfast in her objection to the measure.
“I feel like we’re getting railroaded into something that we’ve had no say-so in,” said Rutledge. “I’ve talked to very few people that are in favor of the T-SPLOST. I have yet to talk to one person that’s said they would not vote for an educational SPLOST, or our 1-cent SPLOST,” she said.
“I am concerned about the impact it would have on our educational SPLOST, and our own 1-cent SPLOST that goes for roads and recreation,” said Rutledge. “If we go with this [T-SPLOST], that’s going to put us up to eight cents, and I do not think it’s going to be good to do that when we can be collecting that one cent next year, and we can take all of our money, and put it right here locally into what the citizens see the necessity for ...”
The current referendum advocates a 1-cent sales tax to fund $6.14 billion in infrastructure projects, over 10 years. The county’s next SPLOST proposal is due for a vote in 2013. The commission hopefuls join other T-SPLOST opponents from Fayette, Cobb and Gwinnett.
Rutledge also blasted the Henry County Chamber of Commerce President, Kay Pippin, who called T-SPLOST opponents “shortsighted.”
Said Rutledge, “I do not appreciate Kay Pippin referring to me, and other people in the county [as] naysayers, just because we don’t agree with the way she thinks. I don’t think Kay Pippin is in a capacity, or has shown proven leadership, to be condemning people who don’t choose to agree with her. I think she’s got too much clout for what little she does,” said Rutledge.
“While they may catch a few votes here and there by coming out against the ... transportation referendum, what their opposition really means is that they are okay with not fixing our suffocating traffic,” Pippin said.
Pippin said Monday that the Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s support for T-SPLOST is unwavering.
“The members of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce represent small, medium, and large employers who are impacted every day by traffic,” she said. “The Chamber supports the Transportation Referendum because it will finally address major thoroughfares in our county that are congested — projects that could never be funded through our local SPLOST program.”