None of us like paying taxes. We’ve had an entire movement that has transformed this decade’s political environment because many feel we are “taxed enough already”. Any candidate that even mumbles something that can be construed as being for a tax increase is immediately suspect to most Georgia voters.
It’s only natural in this environment, where primaries informally decide most elections, that those who are most against taxes can occupy the moral high ground to win Republican primaries. At least that’s the working theory behind a new organization called Georgia Taxpayers United.
Technically they are a 501(c)(4) advocacy group and can’t make endorsements. But one look at the results of their candidate questionnaire can tell you who the group favors. What’s important to know about GTU is that their roots aren’t so much in traditional Republican philosophy, but straight out of Libertarianism.
What’s at stake here is defining what “limited government” means. It’s a concept most Republicans and Libertarians can agree on – until it is defined. Defining it in the way GTU does demonstrates the differences in limitations if carried to their logical conclusions.
Some of the positions that GTU asks of their candidates to support include eliminating all property taxes, repealing the state income tax, repealing all ad valorem taxes, and repealing all motor fuel taxes. That may sound good in theory, but in practical reality, that would eliminate 58% of the state’s revenue, with no offset of any kind suggested or implied.
Worse, by eliminating all property taxes by constitutional amendment, local governments and local school systems would have to give up their primary form of revenues.
Those numbers sound abstract until we put some actual examples against them, so let’s look at one county where candidates who have said they would vote for and sponsor GTU’s bills are competing for votes. In Spalding County, just south of Atlanta, Marty Harbin is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by Ronnie Chance (with the district also covering Fayette, Pike, and Lamar counties). Jason Lovett is challenging incumbent State Rep David Knight a CPA that likely ran GTU’s numbers and decided they don’t balance, for a House seat covering Spalding, Henry, and Lamar.
Spalding County receives 32.5% of the revenue for its schools from local property taxes that would be eliminated under GTU’s plan. 65% of the money used to fund Spalding County Schools comes directly from the state. If the state cut spending across the board proportional to GTU’s proposed tax cuts and the county had no local property tax revenue, Spalding County Schools would have only 30% of its existing budget covered, with few sources of additional tax revenue that could be raised elsewhere.
Harbin and Lovett very much want you to see them as running on tax cuts. It’s unlikely that they want you to see them as cutting the budget of Spalding County Schools by 70%.
Lots of folks campaign on cutting the fat. It’s hard to imagine anyone could believe that cutting seven out of every ten dollars spent on local education is anything other than cutting well beyond the fat and into the bone.
There are two kinds of people that would run on campaign platforms such as the one pushed by Georgia Taxpayers United: Those who don’t know better and those who hope you don’t run the numbers so that you’ll know better. Either of which is a very dangerous person to elect.
To see the entire list of those who responded to the Georgia Taxpayers United survey, click here.