Cobb lawmakers push for fractional SPLOST law

EAST COBB — State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) says he plans to reintroduce a bill he cosponsored last year that would allow counties and cities to collect a fraction of a percent with a special purpose local option sales tax rather than the full 1 percent currently required. 

“The flexibility that is provided by a fractional SPLOST allows the county to present proposed projects that reflect the best stewardship of the county’s resources,” Hill said. “Many times over the years, additional projects have been added to the list to round out the funding formula for a 1 penny sales tax. Sometimes those aren’t all needed, and this proposal would give the county leadership the flexibility to seek the funding levels that are actually needed.”

Last year’s bill was cosponsored by Sens. Bill Heath (R-Bremen), Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), David Shafer (R-Duluth) and Mike Crane (R-


Hill said the bill passed out of the Senate 47-1, but came to a stop in the House Ways and Means Committee chaired by State Rep. Mickey Channell (R–Greensboro).

But Hill points out that now one of the bill’s sponsors, Shafer, has been elected president pro tem.

“Having the Senate President Pro Tem as a cosponsor of legislation will bring additional beneficial influence and focus on passing the bill,” Hill said. 

From the House end, state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) said he’s looking into filing a similar bill. 

The bill would only apply to county and city SPLOSTs given that it would take a constitutional amendment to change the education SPLOST law, said state Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), a supporter of the idea. 

The proposal will meet with opposition from the Georgia Municipal Association, however. 

“Because the way the SPLOST distribution is set up, they have what they call Tier 1 projects, which are county projects, like courthouses, bridges, jails, so those get paid first out of the SPLOST, and then the city stuff falls after that,” GMA spokeswoman Amy Henderson said. “Our concern with a fractional SPLOST is that all the projects done with the fractional SPLOST will be Tier 1 projects and that cities, even though they will be contributing — most of the commerce takes place within the cities — the cities won’t actually get any of that sales tax.” 

Carson has a simple solution to this objection. 

“Then they don’t have to do a fractional SPLOST,” Carson said. “They can ask for a full penny. It does not put a requirement on a city or a county. It gives the city or county more options. If the full penny works for them, then ask the voters for a full penny. All they’ve got to do is prove to the taxpayers that they need a full penny.” 

Carson said he’s talking with members of the House Caucus to see if he would have support for the bill. 

“There is some hesitation within the caucus about doing a fractional tax,” he said. 

The concern is the same one raised by GMA. 

“I’m not going to drop a bill that I know is dead on arrival,” Carson said. “If you do something like that, you do it just for politics. I want to make sure it’s got a pretty good shot on getting a hearing and getting a vote and moving along.” 

Setzler, who chairs the Cobb Legislative Delegation, said, “I’m hopeful that citizens across the state will see this as a viable and important option for local governments, and that any local government entity that would oppose this is looking to take options off the table.”

Carson said he’d like to include a provision so that it was no longer necessary to hold a SPLOST vote during a special election, which ends up costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. SPLOST supporters say they like to hold special elections because of the time span required between when a SPLOST is approved and when the collections go into effect, although critics say the real reason is because it’s easier to manipulate the voter turnout in a special election. 

Holding a SPLOST election in November would mean a disruption in the tax collections between an old SPLOST and a new SPLOST. 

Carson would solve that problem by shrinking the time requirement between the day a SPLOST is approved and the day it can be collected from 80 days to 45 days. That way a SPLOST can be approved in November with collections beginning in January. 

County chairman Tim Lee, the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce support the fractional-SPLOST idea.