Common Cause challenges pro-tax advertising

Government watchdog group Common Cause Columbus on Tuesday asked the group running advertising in favor of a proposed 1-percent sales tax to pull the ads because they were misleading.

Yes for Public Safety has raised more than $62,000 and is in the middle of a television and billboard advertising blitz leading up to the July 15 election. Common Cause's issue with the ads is that the proposed tax is not a tax increase, as stated by the Yes for Public Safety ads.

Mayor Jim Wetherington and members of Columbus Council appear on the television ads saying it is not a tax increase.

"Voters are being told in billboards and television ads sponsored by the Yes for Public Safety organization that the LOST is not a tax increase," said Common Cause Chairman Sam Rawls at a Government Center news conference. "This is simply untrue."

Currently, the sales tax in Muscogee County is 7 percent. Before the end of the year, 2 percent -- a 1 percent Special Purpose Local Option tax for the city and a 1 percent SPLOST for the Muscogee County School District will expire. That will leave the local sales tax at 5 percent, 4 percent for the state of Georgia and 1 percent for city operations, which was passed in 1976.

Both sides use math to make their points.

"If voters in Muscogee County defeat the LOST, the sales tax in Muscogee County will be 5 percent," Rawls said. "If you chose to pass it, the sales tax in Muscogee County will be 6 percent. There is no plainer way to put it -- that is a sales tax."

Milton Jones, treasurer for Yes for Public Safety, said he did not anticipate his group yanking the ads.

"Seven minus two, plus one is six," Jones said. "Anyplace you go, six is less than seven."