How reasonable individuals discuss tax policy

I want to thank Erick for the privledge of allowing me front page posting.

38 comments

  1. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    With my low property and sales tax rates in Cobb County, I’m going to get totally screwed in the butt by this so-called GREAT Plan.

  2. Jmac says:

    By the way, one other little known fact is that these taxpayer funded groups are using your tax dollars to lobby against giving people the ability to vote on tax reform. I just wonder what the reaction would be if Speaker Richardson did the same to sell the plan?

    To be fair, doesn’t he already do that to some extent? He draws a salary from tax dollars, and he’s using his position of power to endorse his plan (as a politician should).

    Why shouldn’t other organizations do the same?

  3. Jmac says:

    Unlike the shrill screams, hyperbole and downright lack of facts from the other groups, these adults want to negotiate and look at facts not knee jerk reactions.

    And, again, to be fair Rep. Earhart, my primary concern has largely been over the local control issues on this (though I’m not wild about the sales tax notion either). I think there are legitimate concerns about that aspect which haven’t yet be addressed, despite the recent push by the Speaker to soothe fears.

    There are lots of questions to be answered.

  4. Chris says:

    My three concerns with the plan as I’ve heard it described are:

    1) Local control. I don’t like the GA deciding how much money a county gets. It flies in the face of the federalist/local-control tradition we have in this country.

    2) It doesn’t cut Income Taxes which I think impact more people more severely.

    3) How we raise money isn’t as important as how we spend the money. The state budget has grown way more than population and inflation. Any meaningful tax reform must be accompanied by spending reform.

    Finally, I haven’t seen anything about how the GREAT Plan will grow the economy and attract businesses to Georgia. The AFP-GA is having a lunch with Arthur Laffer on Friday that I plan to attend. I’ll report back on his take on the GREAT Plan this weekend.

  5. eehrhart says:

    Fair enough JMAC.

    My intention is not to disparage anyone on PP. The discussions on here with few exceptions are usually very reasoned. I was talking about certain tax funded groups.

    I have no issue with individual elected officials who also draw public salaries advocating. I do have problems with paying tax dollars to consultants to advocate against allowing people to vote. What would people say if the Speaker took a 1 million dollar appropriation from the state to pay a PR firm to sell this? Of course he would not and would never advocate such, but what is the difference?

    On the local control issue I still maintain this is just rhetoric designed to prop up their argument. Why do we never hear this argument with respect to all of the other tax the state collects and disburses; ie schools, roads, premium taxes, splost revenue? If we to follow their advice on local control, then would they not have to raise all of this revenue locally?

  6. Jace Walden says:

    On the local control issue I still maintain this is just rhetoric designed to prop up their argument. Why do we never hear this argument with respect to all of the other tax the state collects and disburses; ie schools, roads, premium taxes, splost revenue? If we to follow their advice on local control, then would they not have to raise all of this revenue locally?

    Earl,

    Using your logic, the same thing can be said about the so-called “GREAT” Plan. You guys have been wasting my tax money for years. Why not just give all tax money to the federal government and let them dole everything out to states as they see fit? (Since that seems to be your logic)

    I’ll tell you why not, because it’s stupid. The government that governs best is the government that is closest to its people. The State Legislature has proven for years that it lacks to capacity to responsibly handle my tax money. Why would I want to give another dime to you?

  7. Jmac says:

    My apologies for absolutely butchering your name. Typo on my part!

    On the local control issue I still maintain this is just rhetoric designed to prop up their argument. Why do we never hear this argument with respect to all of the other tax the state collects and disburses; ie schools, roads, premium taxes, splost revenue? If we to follow their advice on local control, then would they not have to raise all of this revenue locally?

    I think the difference is that, as of now, we have a good balance of local governments raising revenues complemented by the state government providing much-needed funds in order for our local communities to operate at their best capacity. My concern with the Speaker’s proposal is that it eliminates that balance and puts all (or almost all) of the revenue-raising and fund allocation in the hands of the state government.

    Philosophically, I think this is a bad idea, and I’m not comforted by the Speaker saying that items like SPLOST will remain (primarily because SPLOST funds should be used to assist with special projects and not fund long-term expenditures).

    I agree we could use an honest discussion, but one more appropriate to me would be granting more local control by letting individual communities determine if they want to replace local property taxes with local sales taxes.

    Something just doesn’t sit right with me with this notion of letting Atlanta handle all of the money.

  8. Rusty says:

    All due respect Rep. Ehrhart, but the Speaker is doing a fine job making the case that this is a power grab for control of local funds without our help. Sayeth Speaker Richardson:

    These “government officials” simply want to keep their power to raise your taxes regardless of whether you can pay them rather than doing what is in the best interest of you, their constituents. The GREAT plan does not take away their taxing ability but rather takes away their ability to continue to raise taxes with no oversight.

    Opponents don’t need scare tactics. The Speaker stated right there that the plan would serve as a check on local control of tax dollars.

  9. Federalist says:

    Taxes have become a rather volatile issue amongst certain groups. Fortunately this forum requests reasonalbe discussion. I think it would be reasonable to state that too many people have false impressions about various tax policies. They do not know all of the facts,…and nobody really does. We gather as much information to support what we believe and attack the other guy, rather than collect the information and think for ourselves. Everyone has their own interests. Citizens do not, typically, want to pay taxes at all…but they want various services provided by the government. The services vary. All I need is protection and representation. Some people need welfare. Children (whose parents are tax payers) need schools and healthcare. The list goes on. The people that make these decisions need other things: reelection and campaign contributions. Unless something is done about education though, chris farris, georgia will continue to be an unattractive state for employers. Is it any suprise that the states with the lowest graduation rates, highest drop out rates, and low standardized test scores have the poorest economies. Taxes are not the only statistics observed by companies looking to expand. Organic growth, as we have seen mostly, will probably continue to be georgia’s source of economic “expansion” for a while yet. Local control typically as an adverse effect on these things as well. The least educated counties are those with low population and low property values, hence a small base of revenue to support their school system. There probably should be a level of revenue sharing amongst the counties in this respect. I seriously doubt that allowing local control of a school cirriculum would be a good idea. Unless you plan on our kids living in their hometown for the rest of their lives. The populists might agree with this idea…but it only local control in respect to many of these ideas leave the locality behind.

  10. Icarus says:

    Rep Ehrhart,

    It wasn’t so long ago when we were the minority party, and fought against certain areas of the state getting free high school band uniforms paid for, while other (fast growing) parts of the state had to tax themselves for basic needs. We didn’t think the state legislature was a good steward when dividing tax money then, and I don’t know why we would think it would be better now.

    There is a concept in state and local government finance that says people “vote with their feet”. We saw families leave the high tax areas of the central city that offered poor schools for lower tax suburbs with better schools.

    Over time, voters have chosen areas because of better schools, access to public transit, or exurbs with ultra low taxes but few, if any, services.

    I do not believe it is the state’s place to now step in and determine how much each of these jurisdictions “should” be paying for any amount of government services. Each local government has the ability to decide if they want good schools, parks, fire service, etc, and how much they want to pay for them.

    Even without the full details of the Great Plan, I do not see how local governments will continue to have the autonomy to make these decisions. Please feel free to correct me where I’m wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

  11. cheapseats says:

    As much as I can see this whole thing as a farce, I’ll try to play the “reasonable” game with you.

    What are the projections about the impact on Georgia’s retailers when taxes go up significantly as opposed to our near neighboring states? Especially, big ticket items. Why wouldn’t I just drive to Florida, Alabama, or Tennessee to buy my next bass boat? Why wouldn’t I begin to use online retailers for a much greater percentage of my purchases? In short, why would I buy anything in Georgia if I could get it somewhere else?

    And, the tax on services…why wouldn’t I use out-of-state carpenters, electricians, dentists, CPAs, lawyers, etc. ?

    If you’re stuck living in the middle of the state, it might be tougher but, if you live within 50 miles of the state line in any direction, why wouldn’t you just go to the next state?

    I think this is going to hurt Georgia businesses and, well… isn’t that sort of anti-Republican?

    BTW – your argument about tax dollars being spent to lobby against this bad idea is a cheap, cheap shot unless you can show me that Glen and his posse are paying for all their travels to promote the not-so-GREAT plan out of their own pockets.

  12. eehrhart says:

    Just time to posit on one point continually being made about the responsibility of the state government on spending vis a vis the locals.

    Recent facts show that the state is increasing at a 26% rate two points below the inflation rate of 28%, while counties are at 40%, cities at 69% and school systems at 98%. Now who again is the responsible steward?

    Before someone argues unfunded mandate I would say that medicaid trumps all on a percentage basis of unfunded and the state is still miles ahead of the locals. I would trade medicaid to the locals any time for all of theirs combined.

    It is about choices and it seems the state has been the better steward.

    I will try to respond later to the other discussions.

  13. StevePerkins says:

    I don’t understand why this issue keeps coming up and getting so much play on Peach Pundit (well, other than the fact that Erick backs it… and this happens to be his site). Is there ANYONE in favor of this idea for ANY reason other than the hope of shifting some of the tax burden onto lower-income people who rent their digs? The notion of centralized control vs. local control flies in the face of conservative tradition SO dramatically, there’s NO way a GOP voter could consider backing this unless they were of the worst variety of RINO.

    Look… I don’t like paying property taxes. However, I DO like deducting them from my income tax. I DO like deducting my mortgage interest from my taxes. People DO like the variety of government programs that periodically come along to help out first-time home buyers. People DO like government incentives (i.e. corporate welfare) for enticing companies to build on local land and create jobs. I never seem to hear any discussion of THESE things come up when we’re talking about getting the government’s nose out of our property rights. Why? Because there’s little to no principle in the game at all… everyone just wants to extract the maximum amount of services they can, while shouldering the minimum amount of burden they can. So PLEASE… spare me further discussion of the principle and “morality” of property taxation.

    Schools are funded through local taxes because the schools are locally controlled. Property taxes are used rather than income or sales taxes, because property tax revenue is less volatile. Not everybody has to like it… but since the government does far more than it should to interfere with the markets in promoting homeownership, property owners should be careful what they wish for.

  14. Rusty says:

    Rep. Ehrhart ,
    re: “Now who again is the responsible steward?”

    This line of reasoning confirms everyone’s fears about the proposal: that the state is going to step in and decide what is “responsible” for local governments.

    It also runs contrary to your accusations of fearmongering against those opposed to the proposal. Those of us who believe the best government is the one closest to home have much to fear with this proposal, as you continue to demonstrate here.

  15. eehrhart says:

    The fear I continue to see here is fear of the taxpaying voter. Poll after poll this is an 80% issue. If you are so sure this is a bad idea, vote against it!

    However, let the public decide wether or not property tax is a good idea.

    You cannot get any more local than the individual voter.

  16. Icarus says:

    The fear that I have is politicians in Atlanta thinking they know what I want and need better than the school board chairman and county commissioners that I can meet and have coffee with weekly if I so desire.

  17. Rusty says:

    Rep. Ehrhart,
    How it plays depends entirely on how the question is phrased. A poll that asks “do you think taxes suck?” will register a 99 percent “hell yeah!” every time. A poll that asks “should the state take over our schools” will register pretty close to the same in the opposite direction.

    I believe the Speaker’s proposal to be a blatant power grab, and I am confident the voters of Georgia would strike it down if it came to that. I’m sure you know a few things I don’t since I can only go by what I read on blogs and newspapers, but appearances would indicate you and the Speaker don’t have the support of the Governor or the Lt. Governor.

    Good luck passing anything if they’re not on board.

  18. eehrhart says:

    Well Icarus I have coffee each week with constituents also. Meet me at the waffle house sometime. I bet I am more accesible than most locals.

    Most state legislators are elected by much smaller constituencies than county commissioners and school board members.

    Are you represented by a rep who is not available?

  19. dorian says:

    You keep mentioning these polls. Where are they? Is there any independent verification? Personally, I think they polled republican members of the house from urban areas of the state. I could step out right now and come back in about 5 minutes with a poll that says 100% are against it.

  20. eehrhart says:

    Constitutional amendments do not require the governors signature.

    We will just have to see what the Senate does as many leaders in that body are supportive of the plan.

    As for the poll question, it was not phrased that way and that is a fact.

    I will paraphrase the question which was similar to this:

    “Would you support the elimination of the property tax if there were an increase in the sales tax of approx 1%”

    Hardly a question begging an answer. It was purposefully designed to add to the negative response by including the tax increase language.

  21. Icarus says:

    Actually, Rep Ehrhardt, I meet with my Rep and Senator frequently, and we have met as well. And yes, you are accessable. But you don’t represent me.

    When it comes time to decide how much money my school board gets, and my fire department gets, and my police department gets, and I want to make my case for why my county needs more than the state formula allows, I’m sure you would be polite and receptive, but I doubt we’ll get any more money.

    My local school board, however, has to see me on a regular basis to tell me what they’re doing with my tax money. Same for the commissioners.

    I ask you again to think back when we were the minority party, for two reasons. One, we didn’t think the state was equitable in their distribution of funds then. And two, if this passes and is put to a vote, it will not only lose, but the direct mail generated from it against Republians for a statewide power grab will probably send us back to that minority status.

  22. dorian says:

    Update: I can confirm that I took a new poll that says 100% of those polled are against the GREAT tax.

  23. eehrhart says:

    Icarus that is why what we are doing is the true local control.
    You stated that you wanted to make your case to them for the spending.
    What we are suggesting is that they have to make the case to YOU for the spending. Putting the power of the spending in the hands of the true local control, the taxpayer.

    We disagree on wether it will lose. 80% issues just do not turn around like that in my experience. Even if it does then we have let the people decide it.

  24. Rusty says:

    Rep. Ehrhart,
    If the Legislature proposed a constitutional amendment to replace the three branches of government with a monarchy, and voters approved it, would you consider that an exercise in local control?

  25. dorian says:

    Isn’t it funny when they are asked to prove this mysterious 80% polling figure, they can’t or won’t? I’ve asked him several times, and it’s either 1) i’ll get back to you with that, or 2) call my office, or 3)just ignored. I’ll believe it when they produce it. And, for that matter, isn’t there some sort of scientific principle that says if you can’t reproduce a result it isn’t verifiable and thus, meaningless? This poll is like the cold fusion of their political world.

  26. IndyInjun says:

    Reasonable people discuss tax policy based upon an evolving BUT PUBLISHED (IN SOME FORM OR FASHION) set of overall principles and specific provisions.

    Right now all we have is some broad notion of “tax reform” based upon replacing Property taxes with sales tax and little else.

    But then, putting forth something definitive like HRes 900 gives legitimate targets to shoot at. Therefore the politically ‘savvy’ way to proceed is to keep the specifics “under the hat” so as to preserve plausible deniability.

    This process should have been open and up front. It started that way and devolved into something else. It is not too late to put it back on track, but probably not before 2009.

    Across the state, folks welcome tax reform but tend to shoot thieves in the night.

    Put this process in the daylight, Mr. Erhart!

    After all, your new allies in ACCG are asking the same courtesy when it was stated ….”We

  27. dorian says:

    Ever noticed when the tough questions get asked, no one is around to answer? All this proposal is is tax reform by sound byte. All sizzle and no steak.

  28. cheapseats says:

    and I still want to hear how this is not going to hurt Georgia businesses – especially retail and especially those located within 50 miles of a state border – which, BTW, is a helluvalot of this state.

    answers?

    Georgians are not really as stupid as the House leadership hopes they are. And, the Senate is most definitely NOT on board with this idea and I got that from Eric himself!

  29. Chris says:

    Recent facts show that the state is increasing at a 26% rate two points below the inflation rate of 28%, while counties are at 40%, cities at 69% and school systems at 98%. Now who again is the responsible steward?

    28% Inflation? When did Jimmy Carter become president again?

  30. dingleberry says:

    Quit asking questions to Earl Ehrhart. Besides Glenn Richardson, Fat Earl is the biggest moron under the gold dome. He won’t answer any question that can’t be answered without a soundbite. Quit trying. He has no idea how to have a “reasonable conversation” about anything. He’s a middle-aged, disgruntled partisan boot-licker.

  31. eehrhart says:

    Indy,

    I have offered time and again to involve you in the process and you have yet to take me up on that offer.

    The process is continuing and if you want to participate please contact me as the offer is still open.

    We are working with people from local governments across the state every day on this and they are contributing.

  32. eehrhart says:

    In the interest of injecting some humor to the debate on this blog:

    There does come a time when some go to far and the “FAT” comment just wont do.

    Any time you want a footrace DB I will be glad to oblige you.

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