Two neighbors talkin’ politics and taxes

Published 8:17 am Friday, June 8, 2012

Me and Frank are next-door neighbors, and pretty good friends. I’m white, old, and retired and Frank is black, younger, and still workin’. We got together ‘cause I’ve got a real good chain saw and Frank has a jam-up log splitter. Plus, I’ve got a boat and Frank knows all the good fishin’ holes on Lake Seminole.

Now, if you’re restin’ up and sharing a cold drink after cutting and splittin’ a cord of firewood or just sitin’ there waitin’ for the fish to bite … it’s the best time to talk politics … or religion … or whatever! Well, the subject of the new 1 percent transportation sales tax came up, and he didn’t know much about it.

I told him, “It’s one of those Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax doolollys — you know, like the one they did back in the fall in Decatur County?” Frank said, “I didn’t even know they had an election in the fall.”

I said, “Well, you’re not the only one, ‘cause outta 16,000 registered voters, only 1,600 showed up to vote! Anyhow, come July we’re gonna be votin’ on addin’ another 1 percent sales tax so that they can patch up some roads, build some walkin’ paths, and a bunch of other stuff that I ain’t been able to find out much about! The folks that got it on the ballot call it T-SPLOST!”

Frank says, “Well, I’ll be dipped! Who’s pushin’ this stuff?” I say, “It’s the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission!” “Never heard of it. What’s that?” says Frank.

So, I tell him, “The folks up in Atlanta, you know … the governor and them, divided all the Georgia counties up into 12 regions. They clumped all the North Georgia mountain counties together, put all those over on the coast around Savannah and Brunswick together, the ones around Macon went into another one, and so forth. Of course, Atlanta got its own region! Decatur County wound up in Region 10 with the rest of the southwest Georgia bunch! The idea was that the neighbor counties had a better feel for the way they wanted to see their tax dollars spent and it made more sense if they ‘gee hawed’ together.”

“Makes some sense,” says Frank. I said, “Yep, but here’s the fly in the buttermilk. They set up twelve of those Regional Commissions, then made all the counties and cities sign on to pay ‘em dues so that they could go out and hire a bunch of folks to run the dang things. And I ain’t met one person in a thousand who has a clue as to exactly what they do!”

“Get outa here!” says Frank! “Anyhow,” I said, “Near as I can figure, these Regional Commissions are supposed to go out and get back some of the money that we paid the state and federal governments at tax time, so’s they can give it back to us to help out the local folks. Problem is they tell us how they want it spent!”

Frank says, “So, what you’re tellin’ me is that we pay a bunch of folks a lotta money to go out and get back some of our money and then tell us how to spend it?” I says to Frank, “That’s what it looks like to me! Tell you what I’m gonna do! I’m gonna find out all I can about the ‘Regional Commissions’ so that the next time we talk … I’ll know what I’m talkin’ about!

“You oughta do the same thing! Whoa, enough of that … I’m gettin’ a bite!”

Byron Godwin