Ralston thinks vote on TSPLOST will be close
by Jon Gillooly
July 12, 2012 01:31 AM | 4783 views | 15 15 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said Wednesday he’s not advocating one way or the other for the July 31 TSPLOST referendum, saying, ‘I don’t think people need politicians to tell them how to vote, so I’m not telling people how to vote.’<br>Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said Wednesday he’s not advocating one way or the other for the July 31 TSPLOST referendum, saying, ‘I don’t think people need politicians to tell them how to vote, so I’m not telling people how to vote.’
Staff/Jon-Michael Sullivan
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, stopped in Kennesaw on Wednesday as part of a statewide tour to discuss statewide issues and support his party’s legislative candidates ahead of the July 31 elections.

Rep. Jan Jones of Milton, the speaker pro tem, and Rep. Larry O’Neal of Bonaire, the House majority leader, accompanied Ralston. Two of Cobb’s GOP delegates to the state house, Reps. Earl Ehrhart of Powder Springs and Ed Setzler of Acworth, were also present.

Following the press conference, the group lunched at the Georgian Club with other Cobb lawmakers and local business leaders.

Ralston spoke at length about the regional referendums on transportation sales taxes coming before voters, and said he expects there will be some regions that reject the new, decade-long sales tax.

He said the process of allowing leaders in each region to draft project lists has worked, and “now it’s up to the people to decide.”

He declined to predict how the referendum would fare in metro Atlanta.

“I’m not much of a gambler,” he said. “I don’t know. I think it’s going to pass in some regions. I think it’s going to fail in some regions. I don’t know what will happen here in metro, frankly. I think it’s going to be a very close vote.”

He’s also not advocating one way or the other.

“I don’t think people need politicians to tell them how to vote, so I’m not telling people how to vote. My focus has been on re-electing a Republican majority in the Georgia House of Representatives, and I’m not taking my eye off that prize,” Ralston said.

Here are some of the other questions he responded to.

Q. Many in Cobb, such as Sen. Lindsey Tippins, are pleased with the $1 billion reversible toll lane project being built here. Do you favor more toll lanes in the future?

A. I see a future for public-private partnerships going forward. I see a future where you could have some optional tolls. I think we may have to take a look at that. I don’t advocate certainly widespread use of that, because a toll’s a tax and we have to call it what it is.

Q. Please address the problem with driver’s license renewals.

A. As you know, in the post 9/11 world the federal government has imposed requirements on the states in terms of identification, security and other measures like that and so the state had to implement that. These are federal requirements that we’re talking about. Not state law changes. I have said that I think the Department probably could have been a little better prepared for July 1, but having said that I think they have adapted quickly, I think they have worked to solve the problem, I think the problem is being solved. I regret the inconvenience that some Georgians experienced last week. And I think that’s being fixed even as we’re here today.

Q. What is the harm in a $100 lobbyist gift cap?

A. You know, when I was honored by the House of Representatives by being elected Speaker in 2010 one of the things that was important to me was restoring the public trust in government. We enacted some very tough ethics reforms to deal with situations that were actual situations at that time. And so I think we have a good strong record on ethics in the House and I’m proud of that. I am not opposed to real ethics reform. … I think the cap is a gimmick, frankly.

I have said all along: I think the choice that we ought to give Georgians is the current system provides for openness, for transparency, it lets y’all write stories about every nickel and dime that gets spent on us, and I think that gives information to people, and I trust people with that information. … Let’s take a look at giving the ethics commission or the transparency and openness commission the resources to do their job, let’s give them autonomy to do their job, so that they are truly independent, and let them deal with real problems rather than try to sell this idea of a cap out there.

Q. Our county chairman, Tim Lee, has proposed offsetting the property taxes in our county by raising the sales tax, which would take Legislative approval. Do you think this is a good idea?

A. Well I’m going to listen to people like Chairman Earl Ehrhart and Rep. Setzler and all the Cobb Delegation in terms of how they feel about that for this county. I support tax reform as a general proposition and one of the things that I was most pleased about this past session is we passed a significant tax reform package that makes Georgia more competitive. It resulted in a $200 million tax cut for businesses and $100 million for families. That’s real tax reform and I hope we can continue that. The Republican Caucus for years has worked to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners in Georgia. I want us to continue that fight to the extent that we can, and I also want us to continue a discussion about giving some further income tax relief to Georgians. I said at the end of the session that I was very pleased with the tax reform package, but I didn’t want that to be the ending of tax reform but merely a good step along the way.

Jan Jones: May I add there’s already a mechanism in place for that as well. It’s called a local option sales tax that Cobb does not utilize currently, but that is utilized in every other metropolitan area except for Gwinnett, I believe. So they’re a little late to the party on that one since most of other counties already utilize that, but that’s a local decision.

Q. Regarding the charter school referendum, some educators fret that it will take money from regular public schools and give it to the charter schools. Can you address this concern?

A. (Jones): It has become a scapegoat for those that are satisfied with status quo. Georgians want good opportunities for their children and that includes public charter schools. We have a good record of them, and contrary to those who want to perpetuate status quo, what public charter schools do is draw more funding into public schools at the state level instead of devoting those funds to other, lesser priorities we will add as we have done this year more funding to public schools and public education by complimenting what we already spend on the traditional schools with more funding. … The small amount that we devote to give parents and frankly teachers some public school options with public charter schools is an infinitesimally small part of the overall budget, and it’s an amount of money that was added to the education budget, not subtracted from traditional schools. It actually resulted in more spending on public schools.

Q. So this idea that public schools will lose money to charter school is not accurate?

A. (Jones): This is a scapegoat by some superintendents and some school board members who want monopoly control. It is not about the money.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Who Cares
July 13, 2012
July 12, 2012
I am appalled that our government will fund transportation over education. Education has been stripped to the bone. Teachers have been told for years to do more with less. Now our elected officials want us to pay yet another tax for road improvements? They have not done what they promised with our current taxes and fees for road construction.

I travel throughout the southwest for work and to visit family. We pay more ad valorem tax than most staes, more in gas taxes than other states, have toll roads, and HOT fee lanes, yet we have all these issues with transportation. It is time for DOT to take a note from the educators- do more with less. Maybe you can have bake sales for road projects.
Sad but true
July 12, 2012
How in the world did David Ralston get to be Speaker of the House? He wants lobbyists to be

able to buy votes. How much more corrupt can

we get?
July 12, 2012
Outside interest has there hands all over this and it stinks.

Reading through the list of metro projects...

The 2 most expensive worth close to 1.5 billion, Building a streetcar system in Atlanta for tourism and expanding MARTA to Acworth...

Neither of these projects would help Atlanta!

Plus, how do you expect people in Cherokee Co. to pay for the majority of Atlanta project. They moved to Cherokee to avoid Atlanta!
July 12, 2012
Even a neandethal like Ralston has figured out the the TSPLOST is such a blatant taxpayer scam that he won't endorse it.

The fact that so many politicians here in the Atlanta area and around the state are against or at least not supporting this is very surprising.

That should tell you something.

What is even more surprising is that there are taxpayers out there who are actually going to willingly support their own "rape" at the hands of the greedy developers, ambitious politicians and money hungry special interests who are the only ones who will benefit from this boondoggle.

Unfortunately they may drag the rest of us, who realize what's happening, into fire with them.
July 12, 2012
I will be voting yes for the passage of this referendum and will be encouraging my colleagues to vote yes as well. We need a plan that will take a comprehensive approach to solving our needs. The Transportation Referendum will do just that.
July 12, 2012
Sabrina, you sound like a billboard.

and I'm still not convinced...
July 12, 2012
I'm voting NO on the TSPLOST.

Its been known for a long time that the GADOT has wasted so much tax payer money and taxes are hardly ever taken away once in place.

Tell the DOT that if they can't afford to maintain it they shouldn't build it.
July 12, 2012
"My focus has been on re-electing a Republican majority in the Georgia House of Representatives, and I’m not taking my eye off that prize.”

Gee, and here I thought your priority should be representing all Georgians and trying to address the myriad problems facing the state. Silly me.
Just Wait
July 12, 2012
Republicans have so much to be proud of with Ralston at the helm of the State House. He is your standard barer. In case you missed it, this was meant to be sarcastic.
Kennesaw Voter
July 12, 2012
This David Ralston dude does not want a $100 cap because he is just like a big pig at the feed trough...he does not want his goodies taken away...And don't be fooled, when he gets all these goodies, he will work hard for the folks giving him all those gifts and dinners. HE should be ashamed of himself and the folks in Blue Ridge should shove him out the door.

David Ralston equals DISGUSTING.
Piney Woods Pete II
July 12, 2012
Amen, Ralston is DISGUSTING and so are the Representatives who voted to make him Speaker and will do so again. Ralston is an ethics nightmare and after reading his answers in the above article, it appears that he is not very bright.

And step up MDJ, give us the names of the "other Cobb lawmakers and local business leaders" who lunched with the Speaker at the Georgian Club.
July 12, 2012
Vote no TSPLOST July 31st 2012 all these so called Republicans RIHNO’s that all, this is a giant pork barrel semi project list with no real traffic relief it’s construction business relief program and nothing more. What about the Northern Arc this last weekend we hear we are being fined and paying back money for taking money from the Fed’s for the Northern Arc. Not a Roy Boy Barnes fan but he put a lot of thought and work into that Northern Arc plan we should have built it. Sounds like the land are already owned by us; but it makes more sense to bring big trucks down to I-285 to get back and forth the I-75 to I-85. I’m sure they would rather do that any way maybe they could have some teeth pulled while they are sitting in traffic.

July 13, 2012
" it’s construction business relief program and nothing more."

It will definitly help the industry, The ones who are left in the industry anyway and it will put thousands back to work... Why is that a bad thing? Who else is going to fund road and bridge projects? This is one way to gaurentee funds over an extended period of time. I would vote to make it permanant.
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