Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"GREAT" tax plan produces more questions than answers

[submitted by Tina Simms, contributor from Perry]

Today (Tuesday, Sept. 18) I attended the Georgia Municipal Association's meeting at the Bd. of Educ. auditorium in Perry. The presenters were Jay Powell, president of the GMA and Mayor of Camilla, and Lamar Norton, lobbyist for the GMA. They pointed out that this issue is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. It affects everyone.

Here is my understanding of the highlights of their presentations:

The GMA opposes Speaker Glenn Richardson's proposal for the following reasons, which all have to do with the realities of fiscal management, particularly the loss of local control by cities and counties over local expenditures and goals. Much of the incentive for counties to seek new industries (to help their tax base) would be removed.

According to the GMA, for many Georgians, Richardson's "GREAT Plan" proposal is a tax shift, not a tax break. In fact, broadening taxes on sales and services would even be a tax increase for many Georgians without their really knowing exactly how much they are paying in taxes. There would be no assured way for cities to fund new or expanded services as demanded by the community. Financial issues which are currently decided on the municipal or county level would be decided by the state, or might have to go before the legislature for a vote.

One mayor of a rapidly growing "bedroom community" who attended the meeting said that his town is largely dependent upon ad valorem taxes.

Many questions were raised by members of the audience about what services will be taxed in our "service economy." There are so many services, everything from medical to legal to architecture and engineering to getting a haircut or a massage or a pedicure.

And what about for-pay educational services...private school tuition, cheerleading camp, music lessons, dance lessons, karate lessons, paying for the SAT or the ACT ? Attending an Elderhostel? Attending a training forum?

It was pointed out that many medical patients (including myself) are on Medicare. So, who picks up the tax bill? It would have to be the doctor or the patient. Surely not Medicare !! And if you go to the hospital and have $10K in surgery---what part gets taxed, the deductible that you paid or the whole bill. Hmmmm.....we won't even go into Medicaid or nursing home services which are billable to Medicaid or to the patient or patient's family.

Answers...that's what everyone wants. And that's what is not forthcoming. According to the GMA, the written details will not be available until right before the next legislative session. Thus nobody, including the legislators, will have ample time to study all of the byzantine details.

We have heard from the GMA and the Georgia School Board Association, both of which oppose Richardson's plan. Where are the voices of big providers of services? What are large professional organizations doing? They may be saving their lobbying dollars to try to get exemptions during the frenzy that will follow if the "GREAT plan" becomes law.

The biggest question for the voter remains: How will your state representative or your state senator vote?....and what will be their rationale for voting yea or nay ?
What you should do is write and ask them both questions, NOW.

1 comment:

Tina said...

There will be meetings all over the state sponsored by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia Association of Educators, AARP Georgia, and Georgia Coalition United for a Responsible Budget. The Macon meeting will be on sept 25, 2007, 4:00pm-6:00pm, Ramada Plaza Hotel (Downtown), Preservation Hall A-D.
You can register, as well as find out about other meetings across the state, at this site;