Governor Nathan Deal told the Savannah Morning News that his legislative priority this year is to pass an “austere” balanced budget that protects K-12 education but does not raise taxes. He indicates that the climate is not right for a major tax code change this year, especially if the result appears to be a tax increase.
Deal appeared to take a much harder stance in the interview against legalized gambling, noting that it would compete with revenue with the Georgia Lottery, thus potentially reducing already stretched HOPE dollars. Reading between the lines, however, the door may be open to proposals that would allow the Georgia Lottery to operate video gambling machines, such as the ones proposed for a Georgia Lottery run casino at Underground Atlanta.
When Deal said last year he was “open” to casino gambling, he said so in the context of potential revenue.
On Thursday, he said he’s personally opposed to the idea and added that it might undermine the state lottery, which bankrolls the HOPE scholarships and pre-K programs.
“You have to ask the question is there a limit on the amount of money people are willing to spending on wagering activities, he said, “and certainly there must be some limit there.”
Noting that lottery income already is down, he said the state shouldn’t do anything to reduce it more.
While the possibility of a Georgia Lottery run casino is pure conjecture, the hibernation of the tax reform proposal seems more certain. The tax reform commission was a product of former Governor Perdue, and thus, Deal is not obliged to invest political capital to ensure it’s passage. Moreover, Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist has labled the proposal a “tax increase”, and Deal does not wish to start his term as Governor as the last (and first) Republican Governor did, by proposing something labled a tax increase.
However, Norquist was meeting with legislative leaders behind closed doors this morning to see if there was wiggle room to have him rescind his “tax increase” edict. And re-reading Deal’s quotes, he does not say he will veto the tax reform proposal. He says “We’re not going to sign anything that is a tax increase … in this climate, no matter how intentioned it is.”
So, is it a tax increase, or just tax reform? The answer seems to be the answer whether this proposal will awaken from its hibernated state, or endure a long, probable permanent slumber.