The controversial TSPLOST took center stage during Tuesday night’s Cobb County Commissioner Chairman forum.
All three challengers opposed the special purpose local option sales tax aimed at funding transportation projects in metro Atlanta.
“I’m running to do everything I can to defeat TSPLOST,” said Bill Byrne to applause from the audience.
Mike Boyce cited the TSPLOST as one of the four taxes imposed over the last 19 months by the current commissioners.
“I’m running to bring conservative government to Cobb County,” Boyce said. “Four new taxes in 19 months, that’s not a Republican. That’s not conservative.”
Incumbent Tim Lee listed off the numerous accomplishments during his tenure as the current chairman.
“Cobb County has the lowest property tax in Metro Atlanta, the smallest operating budget in Metro Atlanta,” Lee said. “Cobb County has one of the lowest sales tax rates in Metro Atlanta.”
The TSPLOST came up during several questions, including talk of a light rail for the county, an idea that was shot down by the challengers.
“Would you give someone $698 million when you don’t know what they are going to do with it?” Boyce asked. “Even worse, giving it to the government? We voted no to bring it in back when the analysis was done. How many times do we have to tell the government Cobb County does not want a rail?”
When Byrne was asked about initiating new services or expanding current ones, his answer was simple.
“In the middle of a recession and you want to raise taxes like a damn Democrat?” he said. “My answer is no, no, and if you didn’t understand that, then hell no.”
Larry Savage agreed that the county couldn’t afforded new programs in the current economic climate.
“I can’t think of anything to add,” Savage said. “There’s enough on the county’s plate right now.”
Byrne and Lee did agree on one point: the need for public safety.
“Cobb County has a wide breadth of services, but public safety is our number one priority,” Lee said.
Lee cited several instances where he and the county commissioners had worked with local law enforcement to make sure they had the proper equipment for their jobs. Byrne used his opening statements to drive home the need for well-funded police and fire departments.
“Public safety must always be our number one priority,” Byrne said. “I’m running to restore public safety as our number one priority.”
The commissioner chairman primary as well as the TSPLOST vote will be held July 31.
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