Time For A Strong Leader

Once criticized for being a “do-nothing governor,” Sonny Perdue has recently risen like a phoenix to become the leader he was meant to be. For this he has been chosen as “Georgian of the Year” by our magazine. In our cover story in this issue, you can read about what he has done to help solve the three-state dispute called the Water Wars and his actions to reduce pork-barrel legislation during last year’s legislative session.

The year 2008 promises many challenges for Gov. Perdue. The state’s water crisis, traffic gridlock that is occurring not only in the Atlanta region, but also along our coast, and the threat by the Georgia House of Representatives to take away the power of the governor will take center stage this session.

The 2007 legislative session was rightly called a disaster. The leadership of the House of Representatives became bogged down with internal disputes and a large logjam resulted. Those bills that did reach the floor for a vote at the end of the session received slipshod attention and contained many pork-barrel entitlements. Perdue used his veto power to reject much of the legislation, and he redirected some of the authorized spending away from what the legislature intended. This latter action infuriated many in the House and Senate.

The water crisis, transportation funding and many other important issues that were not addressed last year will take a back seat to other matters during the 2008 Georgia legislative session because House Speaker Glenn Richardson has other plans.

In an interview last summer, the speaker told me he wanted to spend the first days of the session calling up every bill that Perdue vetoed in 2007 and overriding the veto. Such an action could make the 2007 session look like an exercise in good government. If Richardson is successful, the power of the governor’s office will be shattered. In the future, our state’s governorship will resemble that of South Carolina, where the role is ceremonial in nature.

Next, Speaker Richardson will introduce his “GREAT Plan,” the most far-reaching tax reform initiative in the history of Georgia. The plan is a constitutional amendment to do away with every property tax except bonded indebted property taxes, to be replaced with a 4 percent sales tax on dollar to dollar exchanges for food, medical visits, lawn care and many other services yet unnamed.

These taxes would be collected by the state and sent back to local governments. Decisions as to how much each city, county and school board would receive would be made instead by Speaker Richardson. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is elected internally by House members. They are a docile group, almost like a college fraternity. There is no one there with the courage to challenge Richardson.

Under his rule, the state will control all tax collections. Lenin and Karl Marx would be pleased. Under the GREAT Plan, a family or individual who owns a small business could exchange an $800 property tax for perhaps $1,200 in yearly sales tax on goods and services purchased. The sales taxes owed could far outstrip property taxes saved. Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes could add to the tax bill.

There is more. Next, Richardson will introduce a constitutional amendment for an additional 35-cent sales tax on motor fuel. The state will collect this fuel tax and the tax dollars will be distributed back to county and city governments. This gas tax would increase sales taxes by an estimated $600 per individual family in Georgia. Average families could see their annual overall sales taxes – considering the GREAT Plan and the motor fuel tax – more than double if both proposals are approved by the legislature and if citizens vote to approve the constitutional amendments.

The biggest losers under the GREAT Plan and motor fuel tax are small and large businesses and the elderly. The biggest winners will be large farmland and property owners. Yet property owners could also lose out if the 4 percent tax on their rental income or their tax on cotton or timber sales is higher than their property tax.

Gov. Sonny Perdue is the only person in a position to stop this GREAT Plan. The traditional power of the governor can be used to stop legislation that will do harm to the citizens of Georgia. The office of the governor of Georgia is the only hope Georgians have against a serious threat to their economic well-being.

Categories: Neely Young