Outlook not good for proposed four-way penny tax split in Bibb

Backing from the mayor and Bibb County Commission chairman did little today to coalesce support for a new hotel-motel tax split in Bibb County, and the penny tax proposal appears all-but-dead this year.

Legislators bandied about a potential new compromise on the matter at the Capitol today, but by the end of the day were no closer to agreement. Meanwhile, Bibb County Commissioners, during their regular meetings Tuesday, stood up against Commission Chairman Sam Hart on the issue.

On Monday, Hart joined Macon Mayor Robert Reichert and City Council President Miriam Paris in backing a four-way split of the proposed new penny. That would add the Douglass Theatre and a potential new football stadium /amphitheater project to the split, joining the Georgia sports and music halls of fame.

State Rep. David Lucas, D-Macon, has pushed the four-way split, saying he won't support funding for the halls alone. Such a two-way split is what the City Council and County Commission initially asked for.

"Now to dilute that because of somebody's whim ... I don't agree with that," County Commissioner Elmo Richardson said. "I resent Rep. Lucas and Sen. (Robert) Brown holding us hostage over this money."

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, floated a three-way split, dropping the stadium/amphitheater and keeping the two halls of fame and the Douglass.

Lucas and state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, said no to that idea.

Without some agreement on the proposal, from at least a majority of state legislators from Macon and Bibb County, the full General Assembly is very unlikely to approve any change in the hotel-motel tax.

"It's either a four-way split or forget about it," Lucas said Tuesday.

That was a no-go for Peake, state Rep. Jim Cole, R-Forsyth, and state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon. Staton called Lucas' stadium/amphitheater a "boondoggle." Lucas has said Macon needs such a facility to draw events, such as a Georgia Southern football game, but he hasn't given many details on his plan.

It's not even clear whether Lucas is proposing two separate facilities or once convertable football stadium/amphitheater. Staton said.

Where this leaves the sports and music halls as far as state funding remains to be seen. Both were built by the state, and both get most of their annual funding from state taxpayers. But they've taken significant cuts in recent years and state leaders have said more are likely to come.

Local officials felt those cuts could be softened if local funding was put into the projects, and they decided to try to add an extra penny to the local hotel-motel tax charged to overnight visitors. That would raise about $400,000 more a year, according to estimates.