Belton, Jones slam door shut on city’s tax

Tia Lynn Ivey News

The Madison Mayor and City Council sent a joint letter to Morgan County’s delegation, Senator Burt Jones and Representative Dave Belton, voicing their dismay over the council’s approved Hotel Motel tax increase being blocked from the state legislature to be enacted. The letter was prompted by Representative Dave Belton’s announcement in January that the Madison Mayor and City Council’s narrowly passed two-percent increase to the City’s Hotel Motel Tax would not be presented to the state legislature for final approval because “the vote was not unanimous.”

The council’s letter implores Belton and Jones to honor local rule.

“As you are aware, this city council recently passed a resolution to increase Madison’s Hotel/Motel tax. The issue was a challenging one, passing by a three-to-two margin. It would seem that this increase will not be presented to the Georgia Legislature for approval due to lack of unanimity in this vote,” penned the council. “This council fully respects the importance of dissenting opinions in our democracy, but would like to convey to you our belief in the principle that majority rule should carry the full force of the law, and is fundamental in the functioning of our republic. We further strongly believe in the primacy of local rule in government, and in the principle that locally elected representatives best reflect the interest of local citizens. We request that you consider the law, and is fundamental to the functioning of our republic. We further strongly believe in the primacy of local rule in government, and in the principle that locally elected representatives best reflect the interest of local citizens. We request that you consider these points as you determine how best to proceed, and appreciate your consideration in the matter.”

The letter was signed by Madison Mayor Fred Perriman and all five city council members: Rick Blanton, Eric Joyce, Chris Hodges, Carrie Peters-Reid, and Joe DiLetto. Representative Belton and Senator Jones were contacted for comment regarding the letter. Belton expressed hopes that the measure could be enacted next year if a better agreement could be reached.

“I am aware of the ongoing request by the Madison City Council for the hotel/motel two percent tax,” said Jones. “At this time, I believe that additional meetings with Representative Belton, elected officials from the city, business leaders and citizens are needed before a decision is made. My office has not received enough input from the local community for a decision to be made at this time. Out of the three calls we did receive, two were in favor and one against. Although this is a very important matter, I believe additional time should be spent outside of this session to fully review the proposal and implications.”

“I have the utmost respect for Mayor Perriman and the City of Madison Councilmen. I’ve spoken at length to the mayor and several Councilmen as well as several members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) about this issue,” said Belton.

“As Crossover Day has passed, there is not time to enact this legislation this year. However, I assured them that I am confident an agreement will be reached that is agreeable to both parties next year, and I am more than happy to sit down with everyone to ensure that happens.”

In January, Belton claimed his refusal to bring the measure before the state legislature was based on standard protocol.

“The state legislature does not take up these issues without a unanimous, or near unanimous vote,” said Belton at a forum in Madison in January.

“It is my understanding that the people involved who created the CVB wanted to table this for a year to look at it. With a 3-to-2 vote, that’s not even near unanimous…You can hold another vote and when we have a broader consensus we can move forward on this.”

However, the city council was not convinced. Councilwoman Chris Hodges, who first suggested drafting the letter to Belton and Jones at a council work session in early February, countered Belton’s claim noting that she had never heard of such a standard.

“I think we need to send a strong message that a majority vote represents the will of the council…Home rule is very important and that we have that authority. If we don’t, we need to know that we don’t. Why else do this if we are not recognized as the body for local control?”

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