Some state Department of Transportation board members were rethinking a controversial vote they took last month as state senators held a meeting Thursday afternoon to rake them over the coals.
The DOT board in two votes last month reversed a change to the department's accounting practices that the DOT had implemented following scathing reports from the state auditor. The reversal would allow the DOT to book future revenue before the cash was on hand in order to sign multiyear contracts with only the first year's money available, somewhat like a home mortgage.
"Most of us believe you need to be [accounting that way]," said Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, who attended the meeting. "But we are also trying to abide by the [state] constitution." Senators including Williams questioned why the board did not wait for the lawmakers to deal with the issue through proposed legislation as they had planned to do, but instead took the matter into their own hands. They added that the move came just as the DOT board, Senate, House and governor seemed to be working together at last on a range of issues including transportation funding. Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon) said it almost looked like "sabotage."
The reversal would take effect July 1. In the meantime, the board also asked for an official opinion from Attorney General Thurbert Baker.
The board is holding a meeting to discuss the issue Friday. Board member Brandon Beach wouldn’t say how he would vote, but he said he had heard his legislators loud and clear. Board member Rudy Bowen said he was "strongly re-evaluating" his vote. Board member Bobby Parham, who first raised the issue last month, said he did not plan to change his vote.
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