The economy was good, his poll numbers were strong, and then-Gov. Sonny Perdue was cruising to re-election in the fall of 2006 when he was hit by critics accusing him of signing a tax bill to help himself.
Unlike the two previous governors, Perdue, who was named President-elect Trump’s pick for agriculture secretary on Thursday, didn’t put his assets into a blind trust. The agribusiness owner had others running his company. But he faced some of the same questions about his business interests that Trump has faced, albeit on a much smaller scale.
That fall, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the governor spent $2 million on land near Disney World, bought from a developer he’d appointed to the state’s economic development board.
The money to buy the property came from the sale of inherited family land in 2004.
The next legislative session in 2005, a bill passed with a backdated provision allowing him to defer about $100,000 in capital gains taxes on the sale of that land.
Perdue said throughout the fall 2006 campaign that he didn’t know he would benefit from the tax break before he signed the measure into law.
But a memo obtained by the AJC in December 2006 showed that before he signed the bill, the governor was supplied with an analysis from his deputy executive counsel that outlined the change, which was contained in a lengthy, typically routine revision of state tax laws.
At the time, most states already allowed Georgians who sold land in the state and buy similar property in another state to defer capital gains taxes. And all the state officials involved said the tax break wasn’t aimed at helping Perdue.
The most recent tax records say the property Perdue bought for $2 million is now valued at $396,000.
He wound up easily winning re-election in 2006.