Examining The Great Plan
Georgia’s Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Glenn Richardson, is on a statewide campaign to eliminate property tax and replace it with a new 4 percent sales tax on goods and services in our state. The plan is not a tax reduction, but a “shift” in who pays taxes in Georgia. The House of Representatives would decide how much each city and county would receive.
In response to my August column on the subject, Georgia Trend has received many letters concerning Richardson’s proposal, which he calls the “Great Plan,” for Georgians for the Repeal of Every Ad Valorem Tax. Here are a few samples:
One writer, who didn’t want his name published, addresses the speaker’s proposal to have the state collect all sales taxes and disperse collections back to the city and county governments.
“I would respectfully consider that the Republican Party is supposedly the party that believes in ‘smaller government’ and ‘local control’ over issues, tax dollars, the amount collected and how those dollars are spent. The accountability of elected officials at the local level has also been a major tenet of the Republican manifesto.
“It appears to me that the speaker’s proposals are the antithesis of the basic concepts. Had these proposals been presented with no attribution, I would have assumed that it was probably authored by Ted Kennedy, except that he would have wanted larger percentages.”
Treutlen County Commissioner Gerald Hooks makes these observations:
“If a sales tax is passed, it needs to be handled on the local level, not in Atlanta. A small county with no sales outs would dry up, based on the speaker’s formulas.
“Under the present system it is a proven fact that counties have to wait two to three months now before getting our portion of sales tax collected by the state. Can you imagine having to tell a county employee that we do not have the money to pay his salary because the state has not sent us our money?
“I think Richardson has turned into a Democrat.”
Commercial appraiser Birney Montcalm adds these comments:
“The elimination of property taxes on real estate would be a tremendous boon for the wealthy, who own the majority of the commercial and industrial properties. If property taxes are eliminated, I would hope for some assurance that commercial property owners will pass the savings on to their tenants by lowering rents.
“There are already major property tax breaks available in Douglas, Cobb and many other counties where those over the age of 62 pay no school property taxes. Those who own large tracts of land can enter into a conservation use covenant, which reduces property taxes by as much as 95 percent. Many counties have a floating homestead exemption, which effectively freezes your assessment as long as you live in your home. So why would people want to eliminate property taxes in favor of paying an additional 4 percent on goods and services for the rest of their life?”
Not every letter is against the speaker’s Great Plan. Gary Nichols of Atlanta writes in a letter we published last month: “Anytime we can reduce government controlling the collections and spending of taxes is a win-win. ...”
The overriding theme of almost all of the many letters we have received on the “Great Plan” is opposition to taking away local government control of tax collections.
Under our present system, citizens can vote local officials out of office if they don’t like property taxes increases. With this Great Plan, the state would control how much sales tax revenue will be sent to each city council, county commission and school board. Citizens will lose the local control guaranteed by the Constitution, be-cause the speaker’s job is awarded by a vote among fellow party members in the House of Representatives, but not elected by direct vote from the people of Georgia.
Almost no one wants property taxes, but people should not give away their right to vote any political figure in or out of office.