T-SPLOST preamble sways in favor, say early voters

7:21 AM, Jul 12, 2012   |    comments
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Early voting in Georgia (File Photo)

DECATUR, Ga. -- Early voters pondering the transportation referendum see more than the T-SPLOST question on their ballots.  They also see a preamble, which reads as follows:

"Provides for local transportation projects to create jobs and reduce traffic congestion with citizen oversight."

"Sounds good," said Christine Pless, who was early-voting in DeKalb County Wednesday at midday. "I would vote yes on that."

FAQ | Transportation Investment Act

The transportation special-purpose local-option sales tax (T-SPLOST) is a one-cent sales tax that will last 10 years and raise billions of dollars, mostly for road and public transit projects.  However, the preamble stresses it will create jobs and reduce traffic congestion. Some voters say it read as a clear attempt to influence them to vote "yes."

RELATED | Is transportation tax ballot question unbiased?

"It had a clear bias toward voting for it, 'to create jobs,'" said Susan Chapman, a DeKalb early voter.

"Yeah, it didn't say anything about costing me more taxes, did it?" said her husband, Randall Engle, who said he nonetheless early-voted in favor of the T-SPLOST.

"Still not sure about the one cent (tax), but to help eliminate some of the traffic congestion, I would vote for it," Pless said. She said the preamble helped seal her vote in favor of the T-SPLOST.  Critics say that was exactly the intention of the preamble's writer, Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

"We have a Secretary of State trying to game the system by putting a preamble on it that paints a rosy picture of this T-SPLOST," said Sen. Vincent Ford (D-Atlanta), a T-SPLOST opponent.

MORE | Who's behind the pricey ads supporting T-SPLOST?

Kemp refused to discuss the preamble. His office said he is "unable to discuss this matter... [due] to impending litigation."

However Secretary Kemp's office admits there is no pending litigation. The attorney who made the initial complaint about the preamble, W. Pitts Carr, says there isn't likely to be any either, at least until after the July 31 vote. 

If voters approve the T-SPLOST, then he says, look for some litigation. But if voters turn it down, then he says the question will be moot. 

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