Some personal thoughts on the GREAT Plan

I wonder if someone somewhere in the State Senate will propose a constitutional amendment to require that residents of a county must approve a property tax increase in their county.

I lean toward supporting the GREAT plan. Shocking, ain’t it?

I’m not there yet, but I’m headed that way and I commend Tax Jesus for recognizing the need for reform. The property tax system was based on a time when this state largely depended on landed interests to supply revenue for the state. We have moved in this century to a service based economy and our tax laws should reflect that.

Now, I realize that my personal view on this is somewhat skewed by the county in which I live. Property tax battles in Bibb County frequently boil down along racial lines. Likewise, local government officials have little problem raising taxes because most of the money comes from the northern part of the county, which is represented in the minority at both the city and county level. So, a majority of our elected politicians have no qualms raising property taxes when their voters won’t pay them. The GREAT plan would eliminate that problem.

I think, though, that the plan might be overreaching in its scope. I do suspect, however, that the voters would support it, despite massive amounts of criticism from local officials, the media, and opinion leaders. I wonder if it will make it through the General Assembly. I suspect it will not have enough votes in the Senate.

While I lean toward supporting the GREAT plan, I am not there yet and I have some concerns that need to be addressed:

1. Most local governments in this state, particularly in rural areas, attract business via tax abatement plans and bond financing based on property taxes. What tangible items of inducement will local governments now have to attract business?

2. Local governments in areas like Cobb and Gwinnett will become donor counties, supplying a larger share of sales tax revenue than areas like Bibb County. Likewise, the metro-Atlanta area has a large pool of representatives and senators. What will be put in place to make sure they can’t constantly tinker with the formula for distribution to benefit their urban tax donor base of voters? We will, in effect, be creating a taxation system where metro areas subsidize poorer areas.

And question two gets to the larger point: I am distrustful of government. What safeguards will be put in place to make sure powerful legislators can’t bully their way into tinkering with the formula to help their districts or their causes at the expense of the rest of us?

We need to change the present system. I think it does cause problems. We see regularly that the state exempts certain property owners from taxation, which just drives up the costs on the rest of us.

Personally, my preferred idea is to go back to only having real property owners have the right to vote. As that will not happen, I wonder if someone somewhere in the State Senate will propose a constitutional amendment to require that residents of a county must approve a property tax increase in their county. That, to me, seems like it might actually be the very best idea.


  1. Rpolitic says:

    It is easier then all of that. The fact is that we have the floating homestead exemptions around the state. In Cobb, Marietta, Kennesaw it works fine.

    I mean how much easier can it get, the property taxes stay the same until the house is sold or a very major renovation is done.

    Why are we recreating the wheel?

  2. cheapseats says:

    I wouldn’t mind requiring referendums on millage rate increases. Would you also want to have a referendum on decreases? Just asking.

    In fact, our local government has been able to drop our millage rate by small amounts twice in recent years. Our local school board is at the absolute maximum allowed by law and has been for quite some time.

    The tax “increases” in our county have really been nothing more than reassessments as REQUIRED by the STATE. Our residents scream about the reassessments and their rising property taxes but it’s all simply following state mandates.

    And GREAT tax proponents have the nerve to criticize local governments.

    Our schools have seen massive underfunding by the state. Tthere many very good legal arguments around that the state legislature is in violation of the constitution for failing to properly fund education. Maybe GREAT is just another way for the state to “change the conversation” about this.

    And GREAT tax proponents have the nerve to criticize local governments.

    Calculations for most citizens show that they would pay more and get less under the GREAT plan but, of course, nobody knows enough about the details to be able to make a completely accurate assessment. Are you really OK with supporting some the GREAT SECRET?

    Lobbyists rule the state legislature. Everybody can see that. So, lobbyists will be the most influential voices about the final details. Lobbyists will shape the funding and disbursements. So, what is one of the biggest differences between how state and local governments operate? This is very important! There are almost NO LOBBYISTS at the local government level! Do not forget this – it may be THE most important factor in deciding whether to support the Tax Jesus Plan.

    And GREAT tax proponents have the nerve to criticize local governments.

    That’s enough for now but, I could go on….and probably will, later. 😉

  3. Erick, not to fuel Bibb County’s property tax brouhaha, but if they didn’t like some of the numbers from the failed ’06 digest, you ain’t seen nothing yet. With all the development in the northern and southwest tiers of the county, those numbers will be skyrocketing.

    I’m waiting to hear them talk about a “windfall” like they did the last time.

    What we’ve heard alot about is revenue shifting, but nothing about reducing government or making government efficient. One only needs to look at their local communities to see how inefficient government runs your tax bill up.

  4. Rpolitic says:

    Maurice that is why a homestead exemption that increases dolllar for dollar will take away the back door increase you are anticipating. the fact is a simple piece of local legislation for each county and city can solve that problem. The question is why haven’t more communities demanded it from their local legislative delegations.

  5. Loren says:

    Personally, my preferred idea is to go back to only having real property owners have the right to vote.

    Do you realize just how far back you’d have to go to do that?

    Georgia got rid of the requirement of property ownership for suffrage with our very first state Constitution, in 1789. Georgia was the first state in the U.S. to eliminate the property tax requirement, doing so less than a year and a half after ratifying the U.S. Constitution.

    Thus, since the adoption of the first Georgia Constitution, Georgia has had 218 years without a property tax requirement, and 0 years with one. Essentially, you’re saying we should return to colonial law.

    Georgia did retain a general tax requirement, though, but only until the adoption of the second Georgia Constitution, in 1798. Georgia was thus the second of the thirteen original colonies (after New Hampshire) to completely eliminate any economic requirement for suffrage.

    So given that Georgia was a frontrunner in eliminating property requirements for voting, I’d be interested in hearing your reasons for reinstituting the same, as I’m hard-pressed to think of a more antiquated and obsolete political idea, at least for our state. Not to mention the itty-bitty problem of the 24th Amendment.

  6. Bull Moose says:

    Local governments will be giving up local control to the state. I don’t like that, however, in reading Erick’s comments, it made me realize this is essentially what we do with federal and state gas taxes and we all know how well we all get a return on our money from the DOT.

    So, is the GREAT plan going to create a new bureau to manage funding local governments? Will constitutionally protected measures be put in place to ensure fairness in the distribution in money to local governments?

  7. eburke says:

    When the issue is as important as deciding how to operate our State and Local Governments, I generally will not support vague, undefined proposals. I would like to see some changes made to the current system but I am reluctant to say I support the GREAT Secret that appears to change weekly with every speech of the Speaker.

  8. michaellmcgill says:

    the year is 2010… so let’s see… all poor people left the state due to unfair taxes — ummm… don’t think so, – wait, all the rich people cross state lines to buy any expensive items – count me in… wait… the biggest underground economy in the world, that’s it – yard sales and flea markets galore… wait again, crime goes through the roof as the divide between rich and poor escalates … property values sky rocket – and Georgia is once again the laughing stock of the good ol’ USA – am I the only one seeing this?

  9. dorian says:

    not to mention guard posts at the border so they can collect taxes on all the goods we bring into the state.

  10. cheapseats says:

    Republicans need to go ahead and bury this guy and this whole crazy “let’s raise (almost) everbody’s taxes and create even bigger government” thing or just change your party to the Democrat Party.

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