The argument two weeks ago between Jackson County Rep. Tommy Benton and Commerce city councilman Bob Sosebee over state funds for local projects raises some much larger issues than just the two politicians’ disagreement.
Sosebee complained to Benton at a Commerce council meeting that the city wasn’t getting its “fair share” of state funding and blamed Benton for not getting more pork for city projects. He also slapped Benton by comparing him to former Rep. Bubba McDonald, a one-time political heavyweight under the Gold Dome and a former employer of Benton.
Benton defended his record, pointing out much of the pork projects funded by the legislature are in areas where powerful Republican leaders live.
Sosebee also told Benton that his support of House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s plans for the state to takeover the funding of local schools was wrong and that in sum, Benton wasn’t doing a very good job representing the community.
Benton defended his support of Richardson’s proposal by saying most of the email he received supported the idea and he defended his record of representing his district.
So what does all of this political squabbling really mean?
There are several thoughts that come to mind:
1. Sosebee’s gripe that Benton wasn’t getting enough pork for the city is just another myopic view which reflects Commerce’s decades-old feeling that the town doesn’t get enough money or attention from other governments. It’s a tired, worn and illegitimate refrain that Commerce leaders have sung for years both to the state and to the county government. But that inferiority complex is grating and Commerce officials should move beyond such a narrow-minded view. The world does not shun Commerce.
2. Sosebee is correct that Benton’s vote to support Richardson’s school tax plan didn’t represent the best interest of the community. While Benton may have gotten a lot of emails from people hoodwinked by Richardson’s power grab, Benton should have known better. Nobody likes property taxes, but Richardson’s plans would have been a cure worse than the disease. The real truth is that Richardson used intimidation to get House members to go along with his idea. It’s time for Benton and his colleagues to toss that petty dictator out of the Speaker’s chair.
3. It’s clear from this debate that Republicans aren’t any more fiscally conservative than their Democratic predecessors. Both parties use pork funds to enrich their friends and to punish their foes. If Georgia Republicans were really conservative, they’d do away with pork funds. That they continue to abuse tax dollars seriously undermines their attempts to claim the moral high-ground in government spending.
4. Benton and Sosebee were both a little right and a little wrong in their debate. That’s the nature of politics. It’s sometimes messy, but there’s little doubt both of these men have the public’s best interest in mind. We’ll score this debate as a tie.
Plain and simple, Commerce wants everything for free. That's why the little click that runs everything is trying to get the mayor's little boy elected. They want more and will attack anyone, including good leaders like Tommy, to get it.