Fulton Homestead Exemption Fight Continues

One of the biggest battles Republicans and Democrats have had this session has been over HB541. Rep. Jan Jones’ bill would allow for a referendum in Fulton to double the homestead exemption to $60,000. The bill finally obtained the necessary 120 voted in the House last week and is now being considered by the Senate.

The AJC’s Jim Galloway has an article in tomorrow’s paper about the fight and Fulton’s threat of cutting money to Grady Hospital. Fulton currently provides $50 million to Grady to help pay for indigent care.

Fulton County’s indigent contract with Grady expires at the end of this year. “As we renegotiate, we may not choose to do what we’ve done in the past,” Eaves said. “We may walk away from it, or we may change it greatly. But that doesn’t mean people who are uninsured are going to stop going to the hospital.”

Rep. Edward Lindsey has responded to Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves’ threats with the comment below:

Challenging the First Rule of Bureaucracies – Self Preservation

The AJC’s political columnist Jim Galloway in a piece written for Sunday lays out Fulton County Chairman John Eaves’ argument that an increase in the Fulton County homestead exemption will force cuts in services to Grady Hospital. Sorry but that just is not so.

Observers of politics know that the first law of bureaucracies on any level of government is self preservation. In order to accomplish this in the face of needed budget reductions, they will always seek out the most popular or needed programs and claim that they are the first ones to be cut. As alluded to in Galloway’s article, we are presently seeing this on the federal level with the closing of White House tours to the public. On the state level, we saw this a few years back when needed fiscal cuts led the Georgia Board of Regents to threaten to slash 4-H.

I ask people to not fall for these Pollyanna screams of desperation. Fulton County is over 90% municipalized by population. Therefore, it is right and reasonable to reduce the footprint of the county government and expect the cities to take on larger roles. That said, there will still be sufficient revenue available for certain truly county wide services such as the court system, the libraries, and – yes — Grady Hospital.

For years, the people of Fulton County have been clamoring for reforms but their efforts have been thwarted. I chaired a study committee in 2007,which set out a series of proposed bi partisan changes that were shot down by the Fulton County Government’s stranglehold at the time on the local Fulton County legislative delegation. This year with a new reform minded delegation in place, we are finally able to move forward.

The proposed homestead exemption referendum contained in HB 541 is critical to changing the course of Fulton County, and I am confident our colleagues in the Georgia Senate will follow the State House and also reject the stale wailings from the entrenched status quo forces in the county government. When they do, the voters will finally be able to chart a new reform minded course.

Representative Edward Lindsey
Georgia House Republican Majority Whip

42 comments

  1. Andre says:

    I just read the Galloway column, and it can best be described as the AJC carrying water for Fulton County.

    The opinion piece is little more than Fulton County talking points trying to scare people into voting against property tax relief.

    The fact is, for all their fear-mongering about how House Bill 541 is a Republican attempt to decimate Fulton County, Democrats were deafeningly silent when Margaret Kaiser introduced and passed House Bill 1190 in 2008. House Bill 1190 not only raised Fulton County homestead exemption to $50,000; it also said, “The amount provided under this paragraph shall be adjusted annually by the tax commissioner in an amount equal to the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor.”

    In other words, under the Democrat bill, the Fulton County homestead exemption would have kept rising because it would’ve be pegged to increases in the CPI.

    The AJC, the AP aren’t reporting that. The media isn’t reporting that Margaret Kaiser, Virgil Fludd, Sharon Beasley-Teague, Able Mable Thomas, Roger Bruce and all these other Democrats opposing House Bill 541 voted for House Bill 1190.

    If a 60,000 homestead exemption would kill Grady, what would a homestead exemption pegged to the CPI increase do?

    I, for one, do not believe Grady will suffer. I believe this is all fear-mongering, because that’s how you win elections — fear.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Fear? What elections are trying to be won, here, Andre? The only election I see this local legislation affecting are those looking to run for higher office, leaning on these measures to boost their platform, with the exception of maybe Comms. Edwards & Darnell, whose elections are about to T-Bone one another. In today’s AJC, a story read:

      “As a warning of where future cuts could come, commissioners voted unanimously earlier this month to hold off on spending $11.1 million on new library books and committing any more funds to Grady.”

      Ok, now it’s reality. I think its something other than fear mongering: its politics.

      Fulton County is basically a stuck pig at this point in the Legislative Session. For crying out loud the Speaker of the House had to cast a vote on a homestead exemption bill!

      Fulton County is battleship sized. Turning it around is a slow project. Political ambition drives some legislators, revenge is driving others, hypocrisy reeks from the Dems who objected to the Homestead exemption increase since they just tried the same thing. I don’t think any real reform happens when all the players are in it to enhance their political futures or to enact revenge against those that they are, and this is the funny part, representing.

      • UpHere says:

        So, what do you suggest the General Assembly to do? As long as there is a Democratic majority on the commission and a Republican majority on Fulton delegation, there will be no consensus. I, personally, have been waiting YEARS for Fulton to be reformed. I was hopeful after the 2007 commission that Limdsey referenced but NOTHING has happened. Not one suggestion because they didn’t have to nor did anyone one the Commision outside of Tom Lowe and Lynne Riley wanted any reform.

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          @UpHere:

          I think you sorted through my struggles on this one. I don’t know what to suggest. All I know is the House was practically shut down for two days on local legislation to try to work something out. Nothing happened, and the Speaker cast (what I think is) his first tie-breaking vote of the Session on a local bill.

  2. Harry says:

    The measure will greatly assist struggling low income homeowners who can benefit from a higher homestead exemption in the current weak, inflationary economy. Democrats were supposed to be looking out for the less advantaged voters in their districts rather than seeking to keep all the redundant high-benefit county employees on the payroll.

    • John Konop says:

      Harry,

      How does the low income person get healthcare? I am lost on the logic, in one breath they support bills to increase teenage pregnancy, ( tougher abortion laws) which we know teenage mothers end up on welfare 75 percent of the time. Now the same people want to cut healthcare services to the children and parents. All in the name of being pro life. Please help me understand the logic? Children do not pick their parents!

      • Harry says:

        At the risk of threadjack…the government can’t solve every problem and in fact often is the problem, but yet should strive to protect innocents to the extent possible. What the government can do to promote health care is to get out of the way, encourage a competitive free market, and let the private sector flourish. Would this result in unequal service levels and outcomes? Sure. Society should provide equal opportunities but not guaranteed outcomes.

        • John Konop says:

          I guess what you are saying is, it is ok to force teenage girls to have babies, and deny them access to healthcare to their family if they do not have the money? The free market has real consequences in business……yet in healthcare the consequences is life! Jan can support this bill, but she has lost the right to lecture us on pro life legislation…….

          • UpHere says:

            It really boils down to what government needs to be in the business of. The libertarian in me says it shouldn’t be healthcare at all. As I get older, the more I realize that we can’t save people from themselves. There will always be people that will not do for themselves and I really don’t want to prop them up for that.

            • John Konop says:

              UpHere,

              This issue is even tougher because the kids that get free healthcare from Grady did not pick their parents. I am all for free market approach to business as long as all parties of sound mind, adults and everything is fully disclosed. In this case we are talking about minors who cannot even enter contracts without an adult…..Also we are talking about legislators who are pushing a personhood act…….Please help me connect the dots, how can anyone support the personhood act, and be for this?

              • UpHere says:

                Your argument is invalid because Grady is not going anywhere. Just because someone is for the personhood amendment does not mean they are against subsidized healthcare for the poor. Where have you read that anyone is going to pull funding for Grady outside of the fear mongering from John Eaves?

                • John Konop says:

                  UpHere,

                  The urban county hospital system is not sustainable by any measure long term via uninsured patients….this is not debated by anyone who knows the math…….Reality verse ideology…

                  You can avoid the truth, but it is what it is……..

                  • UpHere says:

                    What is your answer? My paycheck can’t sustain anymore cuts when I am paying more for health insurance , gas and rising tuition.

                    Should I be penalized more since my spouse and I work hard to provide for our family without public assistance?

                    • John Konop says:

                      This bill is more bs………Dems wants to raise taxes, the GOP wants to lower taxes, while bothe sides avoid the real issue….both spew simple talking points to fire up bases, instead of doing the tough work of fixing the system……

                      1) We need to let seniors, poor, government workers by drugs via VA pricing……about a 150 billion a year in savings……..

                      2) We should raise minimum wage above poverty rate……this would create more spending ie jobs….and less welfare……Costco CEO is pushing the idea….

                      3) Georgia needs to invest into infastructure……ie jobs……..

                      4) Georgia needs to stop crimalizing social behavior…….not only would it save money, we could tax it and create revanue, and it would end stigmatation ie criminal record from laws that hurt the people getting jobs…..

                      5) We should create a system that deploys cheaper care ie dial a doc over emergency room for non emergency care, drug store nurses over non emergency care……..use financial incentives ie charge high service calls fee if they do not use the above for non emergency care……

                      Above would be a start………we must solve the problem, not just spew talking points……..

                    • mpierce says:

                      Raising the minimum wage won’t lower poverty. It will reduce entry-level jobs for those who need them.

              • UpHere says:

                Your argument is invalid because Grady is not going anywhere. Just because someone is for the personhood amendment does not mean they are against subsidized healthcare for the poor. Where have you read that anyone is going to pull funding for Grady outside of the fear mongering from John Eaves?

  3. smvaughn says:

    “I ask people to not fall for these Pollyanna screams of desperation.”

    Through his misunderstanding of “Pollyanna,” Lindsay exemplifies it’s real meaning.

  4. Smvaughn is correct. I was a little too fast in my writing and editing. I should have used “Chicken Little” or the “Boy that Cried Wolf”.

    To err is human. To proofread is divine.

  5. CCFRG says:

    My question is why is this necessary now? Pass the Redistricting and civil service bills, elect some new blood to the county commission (which will be forced by the Redistricting) and let them work.

    This homestead bill will eliminate county taxes for most homeowners south of I-20. What interest will they have in true reforms of county govt if North Fulton and Buckhead are paying 100% of the bill?

    • UpHere says:

      Have you looked into the Fulton County budget? I went to a town hall meeting of Albers where Jan Jones had researched into their spending and had a spreadsheet. Fulton spends about 150% more, even with Grady and MARTA funds taken out, than Cobb and Gwinnett counties for their citizens. The library spending was even worse.

      I would assume this homestead exemption will force them to look critically at when these funds are being spent.

  6. Birddog11 says:

    HB 543 is bad public policy.

    How else can can you explain HB 541? In general, I applaud Jan’s efforts in addressing Fulton County’s mismanagement and runaway property taxes. As well intentioned as the legislation is, increasing the homestead exemption to $60,000, I have the following concerns about it’s unanticipated consequences.

    Promotes larger and less efficient county government – By reducing the tax burden of county government and in many cases eliminating it entirely for certain homeowners, it creates an environment where many of the electorate will be motivated to support candidates that advocate larger and more intrusive government since there is no or a reduced cost to them. We have seen this play out at the federal level, where 47 percent of the country no longer pays income tax. It removes the incentive to vote for candidates that advocate, smarter, smaller and more efficient government.
    Erosion of the tax base – In the Midtown zip code of 30308 – there are currently 88 homes out of a total of 177 (49.7 percent)t listed for sale at or below $150,000. If this is representative of the entire 30308 zip code area, then this legislation removes 50 percent of the homes from the tax base. Although the legislation freezes the current millage rate for two years and then requires a super majority to raise it, I don’t trust our current or future county officials to do what is right. If they are not able to reduce operating costs (when has that ever happened?), then their hand is forced to raise the millage rate, shifting the tax burden to those with homes valued above $150,000. If that were to happen, then one could argue the legislation raises taxes. Let’s not give Fulton County taxpayers another reason to move out of the county.
    An engaged citizenry – I won’t debate the merits of having a homestead exemption, but will offer an alternative approach to the one proposed that will incentivize Fulton County citizens to be more engaged in the operation of county government. If our goal is to create a strong and vibrant county it can only be accomplished by having as many of our citizens engaged as possible. The way to accomplish this is to have everyone participating in paying the tax burden. Only when you pay for something can you truly judge the value of what you are receiving. If Jan is intent on raising the homestead exemption, then I strongly suggest we do so by exempting 50% of a property’s assessed value up to $120,000. This way, everyone one has skin in the game and a vested interest in a more efficient government. Otherwise, these homeowners are incentivized to vote for the candidate that promises the most freebies. We have seen where that leads, let’s be wiser than our elected officials in Washington DC.

    This is a great opportunity to influence public policy, we can accomplish Jan’s goal, but with legislation built on fiscally responsible principles. I appreciate what she is attempting to do, but I am unable to support this legislation, and will encourage others to do the same, its bad public policy.

    Take care

    Peter Giroux

  7. noparty says:

    @UpHere:

    “Fulton spends about 150% more, even with Grady and MARTA funds taken out, than Cobb and Gwinnett counties for their citizens.”

    That is because they have more poor people. Granted, they are liberal Democrats who believe that a primary function of government is to provide social justice to the poor via social services. So the Fulton leadership makes providing child care, health care, elder care, housing, education, job training, nutrition, recreation etc. to its indigent population a higher priority than fiscal conservatives believe is necessary. Still, the leaders of Cobb and Gwinnett aren’t exactly falling over themselves to be public servants for the large indigent population that Fulton is stuck with. And Jan Jones is trying to create Milton County precisely to leave Fulton County’s poor people behind.

    Now I am not claiming that the Fulton County leadership are the “good guys” here. I am just pointing out that they are actually tasked with serving the same large population of people that the folks who voted for HB 451 don’t want bringing down their property values. So, it is very easy for those people to say “that said, there will still be sufficient revenue available for certain truly county wide services such as the court system, the libraries, and – yes — Grady Hospital” because they won’t be the ones responsible for proving that they are capable of deciding which services to the poor are truly necessary and what levels of funding those services need.

  8. noparty says:

    @John Konop:

    You do realize that the only reason why the anti-abortion crowd opposes abortion is that they believe it to be murder right? Because when I see you debate the abortion issue, I really don’t see any evidence that you accept that fact.

    • John Konop says:

      ………abortion is that they believe it to be murder right…..

      I get the argument totally! That is why not providing healthcare would be murder as well! In one breath euthanasia ie Terry Schiavo case is murder, yet cutting out health services to poor people at Grady hospital is not? Help me understand the difference?

    • John Konop says:

      What would you call this? BTW the problem is worse since this study via budgets……

      ……….The Harvard Medical School released a study yesterday that I dare you to read without your heart breaking.

      Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year — one every 12 minutes — in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

      “We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction … than drunk driving and homicide combined,” Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

      Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.

      This is well up from a 2002 estimate showing 18,000 preventable deaths per year from a lack of health insurance. And the increase is directly related to the increase of the uninsured, as well as the scaling back of public hospitals or free clinics or access to care, particularly for those in poor areas. Diabetes and heart disease are two of the most common preventable diseases among this class of the uninsured. As one of the professors in the study puts it, “it’s completely a no-brainer that people who can’t get health care are going to die more from the kinds of things that health care is supposed to prevent,”….

      http://crooksandliars.com/dday/45000-die-each-year-lack-health-insurance-fie

      • Charlie says:

        What would I call it? A threadjack.

        This is a thread about the politics of breaking up or reigning in Fulton County government, and its possible effects on Grady. You discuss medicare reform/health care access enough that the bigger issue doesn’t need to be brought in here and drown out the issue at hand which is an inherently local one with major regional/state implications.

      • Harry says:

        That’s all true, but is big government the solution? The only solution is building more real wealth in the economy of which big government is the enemy.

  9. saltycracker says:

    Fulton County is in a battle tweaking a bad tax.
    We love to legislate then spend the rest of eternity rearranging the law for a variety of “sound” reasons. Homestead, conservation, economic opportunity zone, veteran, senior, non-profit, special crcumstances…………………

    I’ve protested property taxes several ways on PP, so let’s try this one:

    Taxing something just because we own it is a government (people’s) violation of the 10 commandments –
    “you shall not covet anything of your neighbors”

    Tax the monetizing activity – sale, barter, exchange, transfer, rent, lease, business activity, impact of change……..

  10. James says:

    I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I’m having a really hard time figuring out the political purpose behind raising the homestead exemption. As noted in the AJC.com article and numerous times in this post, all this really does is excuse a lot of new people from paying property taxes. So what’s the endgame? Less money for Fulton County? Who cares? The county will just find new things to tax (a la Clayton County and its tax on leasehold interests in the International Terminal).

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      If you pay taxes in Georgia, then you have a dog in this fight. Your Representative cast a vote on this bill.

      Political purpose behind raising the homestead exemption? You can go on the campaign trail and say that your bill cut Fulton County property taxes.

      However politically popular this could sound to the GOP primary voting homeowner, if the net effect is giving property owners from Atlanta to south Fulton an “excuse” (I like that) from property taxation, it’s not likely what the folks in N. Fulton would want.

  11. polpol says:

    Lets look back to the basic premise here and that is that the Dems proposed a very similar HE in years past but are opposing it now. But no, they are not flip flopping. Why you may ask…..well, given a pure homestead exemption (HE), the exemption applies to all residential properties that qualify and once the budget is set and the millage rate is set, to offset the loss from the increased exemption, the rate is simply increased for those who don’t qualify for the exemption. Simple enough and that is exactly how the current proposal works……….HOWEVER, there is a companion bill that the Delegation is trying to get together that initially said that the millage rate would be capped (unconstitutional) and now says that the current rate is capped and in 2015 there would have to be a “supermajority” to increase the rate. This is the key difference. By passing limits on FC being able to increase the millage rate, revenues WOULD be drastically reduced and that is what the Dems are fighting. The net effect of this, captured by the AJC, is that passage without the cap language would deliver a huge tax break for most homesteaded properties south of I-20 and major increases for the northern regions of the County. If any kind of limit on millage rates is held to be unconstitutional, the Republican leadership of the delegation might just want to kill think this through a little better.

  12. South Fulton Guy says:

    What do North Fulton Taxpayers think about the last two paragraphs of Jim Galloway’s article?

    “Others are quietly pointing out that a $60,000 homestead exemption essentially means that the owners of houses worth less than $150,000 will pay little or nothing in property taxes.

    And those houses are located primarily in south Fulton – which could mean that the burden of paying for what’s left of Fulton County government would still fall on residents and businesses in Atlanta and north Fulton.”

    http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/political-insider/2013/mar/16/fight-control-fulton-county-likely-escalate-over-g/#cmComments

    • South Fulton Guy says:

      Someone tell me why the homestead exemption change will be good for fiscal responsibility when a huge sector of South Fulton home owners will pay NO PROPERTY TAXES to fund what they receive from the county paid for by North Fulton. Right now the Schaefer Special Services District (SSD) legislation from 2007 ensures the North Fulton dollars do not flow to fund South Fulton. With this homestead exemption I will pay NOTHING in property taxes for my General Fund services which will totally be funded by North Fulton. If the Republican led Fulton Delegation thinks the are punishing South Fulton by giving us a free ride on North Fulton’s nickel – go for it RLOL….

      • saltycracker says:

        Suggest you look into the makeup of the general fund – you’ll be paying sales taxes, fees, fines and other revenues into the pot…..and if you do business in South Fulton, you’ll be indirectly contributing….

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