The Bibb County SPLOST

As a Republican, I generally oppose tax increases. It is in my nature to cut taxes. But, I do think that Republicans need to come up with a more solid ideology on the nature of taxes and tax cuts. There might just be occasions when a tax increase is legitimate. Let me add a caveat to that, however: a tax increase is never necessary or appropriate when the legislature has not first cut spending aggressively, gotten rid of all the frivolous waste, and still can’t make ends meet.

That leads me to the Bibb County SPLOST. The County intends to have a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) on the ballot. For those not familiar with the SPLOST, it is a penny sales tax that the local legislature can adopt. The SPLOST is for a limited duration, a limited and defined purpose, and must be approved by the voters in a duly called election. That’s why I’m not de facto opposed to a SPLOST. After all, the voters must approve it.

Last year, Bibb County called for a SPLOST. The SPLOST would have paid down debt, increased recreational spending, expanded the county jail, added to the courthouse, etc., etc., etc. At the time, the Mayor of Macon, a controversial figure to say the least, killed the measure with false praise. He was helped by the perception that the then County Commission Chairman was out of touch and out to get South Bibb County through a series of zoning restrictions. I was not a fan of the SPLOST back then, but frankly didn’t even vote for it or against it.

This year is a bit different. The County is under the responsible leadership of Charlie Bishop. He wants the SPLOST primarily to pay down debt. Right now the County has several outstanding bonds and other debt financing that is slowly bleeding the County dry. The idea of the SPLOST is to generate sales tax revenue to pay off the debts sooner rather than later and help cover the costs of a needed jail expansion. The added costs of recreation will not be covered by the SPLOST.

Naturally, the Mayor is opposed to this SPLOST, which should give it a big boost in the unincorporated areas of the county. The idea actually makes good sense. The SPLOST would free up other money and short circuit some significant future debt payments. I do have one concern. In freeing up other money over time, I’d like to know what that freed up money will go toward. My suspicion is that property tax rates will not be coming down My further suspicion is that there will be no aggressive spending cuts. That said, given the level of spending cuts imposed over the past few years at the county, I think I’ll be okay with that.

So, to recap, this year’s SPLOST is better and more narrowly tailored than last year’s. I cannot bring myself to vote for any tax increase, but will probably forget to go vote anyway. But, you do not have to fear this SPLOST if you do go vote.

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Erick Erickson

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