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.