Taxpayer Pledge Could Mean 70% Cut To School Budget

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.


  1. Ellynn says:

    There is a third type of person; the one that wants to stop all forms of public school education in the first place.

  2. Daniel N. Adams says:

    Hey Charlie Harper, some democrat has hacked your PP and facebook accounts.

    Most candidates that I know that are running on an “eliminate income/property tax” are also running to replace with a State sales tax. And depending on rate (even if the intent is to be revenue neutral), would most likely raise revenues to the areas you mentioned. But yes, a Georgia Constitutional amendment would be required. But lately that has not been a difficult task to do.

    • Charlie says:

      The questionnaire specifically states “all” property taxes. Please tell me what the effective sales tax rate would have to be in Spalding County based on their sales tax base for them to replace all local revenue plus all state revenue that would be eliminated by this pledge?

      • Daniel N. Adams says:

        Currently the nominal Georgia income tax rate is 6%…. I’ve seen numbers crunched that suggest the income and property tax could be replaced with a 3-4% (increase/swap) in State sales tax.

        • Larry Harkins says:

          I think this is why a lot of folks are confused about what conservatism is. Do conservatives believe you must pay the government to live on property you own? Is that then private property? Flat sales tax is where it should be, and only can be increased or decreased by votes in the General Assembly.

          • Every serious proposal I’ve seen to replace the property tax would replace it with a sales tax that gets applied when property changes hands.

            I pay roughly $3,500/year in property taxes for my $300,000 house. Under a different system, I might pay 10% one time when I buy it – $30,000.

            Right now everyone pays a property tax every year whether they bought their house yesterday or inherited it at birth. Seems fair to me. Why should someone that lives in a house for 20 years not have to fund the local government in years 11-20 while someone who bought a nicer house every 7 years has to pay to fund it 10 years at a time each time they move and make their life better?

        • Sorry – but the current state sales tax of 4% (you do know that the rest are county and city sales taxes, right?) only raises about 30% of the state’s tax revenue. Personal and corporate income taxes raise about 50% total. So if you got ride of the income tax, to replace it with a sales tax the new rate would have to be approximately 10.7%. The state property tax is very minor, but with rounding let’s say we are at 11%.

          Now, I can’t find good data about county tax structures, so I will extrapolate from my own experience. My household pays roughly $1,200 in county sales taxes in a year and pays roughly $3,500 in county property taxes per year. The county property tax is currently 3%. So if you replaced property taxes with the sales tax you’d have…a new county sales tax rate of 11.75%.

          So adding these together, the typical sales tax rate would be somewhere in the 22% range in Georgia if we did this. Now I know that not everyone pays property taxes already yada yada, let’s say the typical rate would be something like 18%.

          So 18%. Or we could broaden the base and apply the sales tax to things like services, home purchases etc, maybe come up with a combined rate of closer to 12%…maybe. At the end of the day, most people would pay about the same as they pay now, but with a lot of trouble. And that’s only if we do it right – if we screw up by doing things like not taxing internet purchases, we could seriously distort and ruin the local economy along the way.

    • Charlie says:

      Also, note they want to get rid of internet sales taxes too. When this ridiculous sales tax rate is applied to all purchases to make up for property tax revenue going away, the incentive to not buy from local retailers but instead buy from out of state entities with no physical presence in GA will be profound.

      Got to love those market principles. You’ll crash the government and the local jobs base all at the same time.

      • Daniel N. Adams says:

        I didn’t know whether to put this here or below to replay to the Kansas link:

        John Stossel also did a report comparing no income tax states like Texas annd Florida to those with… Increase in Business and State revenue rates also were greater.

        • Larry Harkins says:


          If you run across data [if it’s been done] showing how many folks leave Georgia for Tennessee or Florida every year specifically because of no state income tax, I’d like to know.

          Growing up in Cobb a couple of decades back, at least a handful of my buddy’s fathers bought homes in Destin/Panama City/wherever in Florida, to claim residency there and skip on state income tax. Not just for vacation, but to claim income there.

          Of course anecdote isn’t rich data, but I’m confident they aren’t the only ones.

          Let me know if you are aware of any studies.


          • Those that are able to do something like this (you can’t claim income in Florida if you get your W2 from Georgia like most people) are always going to look for ways to cheat the system. From the standpoint of destroying the system that works for 99% to go after the 1% that cheat it, doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

          • WesleyC says:


            The Tax Foundation’s put together an online calculator that allows you to see state-to-state migration patterns since 1993.

            You’ll notice that while Georgia lost 272,820 taxpayers to Florida from 1993 to 2010 (full date range available), Florida sent 343,212 our way, for a net of 70,392. This is part of the problem with anecdotal examples about people leaving Georgia for (Texas, Florida, Tennessee, insert no-income-tax state here). They don’t account for the counter-anecdote of people moving in. They also don’t take into account the myriad other and usually more important reasons people move, such as housing costs, job opportunities, family, etc.

            This is from an admittedly left-leaning group, but there’s a very recent study about this out:

          • DrGonzo says:

            Neil Boortz had no compunctions bailing out of Atlanta to make his full-time residence in: Florida. He expressly states that a major factor in that was no state income tax.

          • objective says:

            i happen to have been recently involved in a study looking at the issues of tax burden and migration. it will be submitted for publication in the near future. it is similar to the larger model, but looks at migration in and out of GA specifically. all i can say is that Art Laffer and all who follow him exaggerate the effects of tax burdens. first off, most ppl below a certain income level don’t move, period. they can’t afford to. second, family is the most important factor for choosing where one lives. in the mix is perceived economic opportunity, but it doesn’t depend on the taxes, just whether you think you’ll have job opportunities. who moves due to high taxes? the wealthiest ppl.
            it doesn’t answer whether lower tax burdens create more jobs, but framing the issue that way is extremely broad. so so many intervening issues, not the least of which is how taxes are spent. the how seems much more important to growth than the how much.

          • taylor says:

            I moved to Georgia from a no income tax state several years ago. Job opportunities were better at the time. Income tax rates were really not a consideration.

          • MattMD says:

            Yes, anecdotes are not data at all because they’re usually 50% B.S.

            I know military members can work/live in one state while having residency in another but doing this by buying a “vacation home” does not work.

      • saltycracker says:

        People migrate for work (#1), some to retire to a better place, some to be near family and, as we joke in FL, too many to attempt to re-start a screwed up life.

        With a homestead choice of Georgia or Florida, I pick GA and some of my friends do the reverse. The reasons are complex and individual. But with both legislations unpredictable, it is nice to have options.

        Georgia’s financial growth is in attracting employers and, in some areas, retirees.

        Georgia needs to dump its corporate income tax, completely overhaul its tax code, yes, tax internet retail sales and overhaul its subjective valuation approach to property taxes.

  3. AlanPainter says:

    I was one who signed the survey and maybe I am a 4th kind of person (The two suggested by the author and Ellynn suggested one).

    A reread of the Georgia Constitution will remind us that we all have a obligation to fund education of children in Georgia.

    Since the author used the word “could” instead of the word “would” I will make this short.

    My thinking only covers Georgia House District 1 but as a former elected member of the school board I wanted then and still supports today the concept of using sales tax for non capital spending (a.k.a. SPLOST) for salaries, etc and doing an incremental roll back of property tax.

    This has been done before (if memory serves) for the City of Trion.

    Anybody who suggests that I hope to transform the taxing support without a plan of replacement is flat wrong.

    Alan Painter, HD-1

  4. Larry Harkins says:

    Gasp! “Straight out of Libertarianism”! My favorite Reagan quote: “If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”

    • Will Durant says:

      Actually Ronald Reagan’s go to economist, Milton Friedman, (Nobel Prize in Economics 1976), didn’t care much for taxes but considered them a necessary evil. He labeled himself a libertarian with a small l and a Republican with a capital R, though he may have been the one Reagan was paraphrasing regarding the revolutionary days as he was on record saying that is well. On taxes he considered the motor fuel tax the most equitable as it is the closest one we have to a straight user fee and thus a “good tax”. On other taxes and how they affect the overall economy he then placed property taxes next as the least harmful being a tax on something that is not being produced (land). Next you go to a consumption tax and the worst form of taxation for the overall health of the economy is an income tax.

      I am by no description an economist or especially a macro economist as I still cannot comprehend how a service economy is not akin to a snake feeding on its own tail. However I also can’t understand how you are going to get corporations to pay their fair share by eliminating property taxes in lieu of a sales tax. I would rather keep property taxes and button down on the loopholes like mansions taxed as farms and decades of exemptions to corporations. Something has to be done about the race to the bottom currently being conducted by states and local governments to entice corporations. This has become a zero to negative sum game.

  5. northside101 says:

    I don’t know of any state in the last 20 years that has eliminated their personal state income tax, and with good reason—it is a very difficult task when you are also seeking to project revenues for future state budgets. Some states that don’t have one are very small in population and/or have extensive mineral resources from which to collect taxes (Wyoming for instance has no state income tax, but also has well under a million people, and is rich with coal and natural gas supplies). South Dakota has no personal income tax, but only 700,000-odd people live there, in part because not many folks probably want to live in a state where you can still get snow in May. New Hampshire has no sales or income tax, but very high property taxes (because a lot of their services are funded at the local level, not the state level). Tennessee does tax dividends and interest (though not work income) but has a very high sales tax. In a recession, sales tax revenue can be the first to drop (compared with receipts from income tax—and Georgia collects far more from the personal income tax than the state sales tax). If the personal income tax were to go, then all the state’s eggs are basically in one basket when it comes to state revenues, which can be problematic at recession time.

    Then there is the thorny matter of lots of sales tax exemptions, like the one the governor signed a few years ago to free manufacturers from the sales tax on energy (which has been pushed by manufacturers in this state), Or the state exemption for groceries that Zell Miller pushed through in the 1990s.

    Taxes are just one factor in businesses locating here. If low taxes were the sole criteria, you’d see countless high-paying jobs in southwest Georgia. But you don’t. Businesses also want a quality school system, access to a major airport (especially in dealing with international business), and amenities (things for their families to do).

    However, we could see maybe a reduction, like a percent or two, over time, provided another severe recession does not come around in the near future (which of course would not be the time for a major overhaul of tax collections in this state).

  6. DavidTC says:

    I always find it amazing how the ‘We should eliminate all forms of tax except one’ always end up with sales tax as the tax to keep.

    Sales tax is the most absurdly regressive tax there is, and is trivially easy for rich people to avoid. (Especially with the internet exception these people already want.)

    Why do we never see these people calling for an abolition of sales tax and that we only have income tax? Or only property tax? Or an asset tax?

    And extremely higher sales tax has completely idiotic repercussion. Moving solely to sales tax would just encourage the rich to not actually spend money. Someone who makes ten millions dollars a year could be running around paying only four or five times as much tax as someone who makes twenty thousand a year, because they’re just putting most of it in a bank, and out of the economy. (And people are hilariously talking about ‘people who moved out of state’ to avoid income tax…with solely sales tax, the rich wouldn’t even need to move out of state. They could just cross state lines every few weeks to restock.)

    Seriously, I’d take the ‘simplify taxes’ people a lot more seriously if they didn’t coincidentally just happen to pick the sole tax to remain that most effects the poor, that the rich find easiest to dodge, and literally is the worst tax for our economy.

    • seenbetrdayz says:

      I’d argue that the income tax is pretty regressive. I mean, the gov’t gets first dibs on your paycheck. And while you’ll argue that the sales tax will encourage ‘rich’ people to stop spending, I’ll argue that the income tax encourages poor people to not make as much. —I for one felt infinitely more free when I was dirt poor working my way through college. The IRS had better things to do than bother me. My taxes took about 3 minutes to complete.

      But once I graduated and actually started making something of myself, oh, here comes The Man™. (There’s nothing wrong with saving money, either. If it weren’t for people with money tucked away, whose wealth would you redistribute?)

      • saltycracker says:

        The income tax code can be easily described in several hundred thousand words. Most Americans think it is just great, believing their interests will prevail, or our politicians wouldn’t do so well adjusting it…..They would never agree to take one percentage amount regardless of income with no other complications. Even fair/flat proposals are complex and have adjustments.

        Even leadership is a very lucrative PAC today.

      • DavidTC says:

        And while you’ll argue that the sales tax will encourage ‘rich’ people to stop spending, I’ll argue that the income tax encourages poor people to not make as much. —I for one felt infinitely more free when I was dirt poor working my way through college. The IRS had better things to do than bother me. My taxes took about 3 minutes to complete.

        Yes, our problem, with massive unemployment, is that poor people are choosing to not make as much. That’s the problem. People are choosing to be unemployed or living below the poverty line because, although they could have a good job, they’re worried about taxes.

        But once I graduated and actually started making something of myself, oh, here comes The Man™. (There’s nothing wrong with saving money, either. If it weren’t for people with money tucked away, whose wealth would you redistribute?)

        You do realize that ‘money tucked away’ isn’t taxed, right? Once someone has paid taxes on their income, it’s only taxed again if they spend it, via sales tax. That would in fact be the point of a general asset tax. It would be to actually tax that money, the money the rich keep sitting around and not doing anything with.

        I swear to God, talking to right-wing tax reformers about taxes keeps demonstrating they literally have no idea how taxes work, or what sort of behaviors the government should encourage and what sort of behaviors the government should discourage.

        Do you actually understand, in the slightest, what the different forms of taxes encourage or discourage? Do you understand that a sales tax is literally the worst imaginable tax for our economy? And thus it is complete lunacy to suggest as the sole means of taxation?

        Sale tax directly discourages all consumption of goods and services, and is a direct drag on the economy.

        Income tax discourages work, which is why we don’t tax people who make very little money, in an attempt to ‘level out’ the amount of work. I.e., it’s better for society if two people work a job for $15,000 each, than for one person working for $30,000 and one not working. So one person making $30,000 pays more in taxes than two people making $15,000.

        An asset tax would discourage the rich sitting on large piles of money and doing nothing with them.(1) It is something we do not currently have, and, thus that wealth is never redistributed.(2) Saying ‘whose wealth would you redistribute?’ with regard to that money shows you are, quite possibly, the most uninformed person imaginable to be discussing this issue.

        1) There are reasons to object to an asset tax, as in, the super-rich would just offshore even more of their money, but those are enforcement objections, not philosophical ones.

        2) Well, it eventually will be distributed, if the person has poor planning and dies, via estate taxes, but we all know how much the right hates those.

        • seenbetrdayz says:

          Yes, our problem, with massive unemployment, is that poor people are choosing to not make as much. That’s the problem. People are choosing to be unemployed or living below the poverty line because, although they could have a good job, they’re worried about taxes.

          Look out a window bro. It’s all around you. If you’re dirt poor, you get all sorts of goodies. I know! I was there. I could have had food stamps, free college, free Obama phones, cheap housing. Pride kept me from falling into that trap. I forwent all of that so I could join the ranks of the productive elements of society and have leeches such as yourself tell me that I should have stopped at $15,000/yr because now that I make $30,000 I’m apparently filthy f’king rich and should be punished.

          You can keep trying to direct your tax schemes towards those rascally rich people, but you need to know that your policies slam the middle class right between the arse cheeks. I know! I am there.

          Rich people are gonna be rich and y’all need to get over it, because in your zealotry to go after the rich people, you’re causing immeasurable harm to the rest of us.

          • DavidTC says:

            You know anyone who utters the phrase ‘Obama phones’ is an idiot, right?

            You can keep trying to direct your tax schemes towards those rascally rich people, but you need to know that your policies slam the middle class right between the arse cheeks. I know! I am there.

            And, of course, when I attempt to point out the ludicroustaxation plans of the right, they decide to make it about where the money goes. Which has nothing to do with how it gets collected.

            You have completely failed to address my undeniable fact that sale tax is a) a really good way to tax about 75% of a poor person’s income, b) a really good way to tax maybe 10% of a rich person’s income, assuming they bother to even pay that, and c) discourage spending by the aforementioned rich people.

            A sales tax is literally the most economically destructive form of taxation, and hence is it would be utterly insane to pick as the sole method taxation. And, yet, there it is, somehow getting picked out of all the others by the ‘Fair Tax’ national people, and these local people. Not a single one of these groups advocates to remove sales tax and only tax income, or remove sales and income and only tax property or assets.

            Sure is a weird coincidence, isn’t it? It’s almost as if it’s not been selected due to the fact it’s the best form of taxation, which is completely impossible to argue, but because it’s the one that the rich can easily avoid and don’t pay as much a percentage of.

            Quick! Distract everyone by talking about Obama phones!

  7. Dave Bearse says:

    It’s a testament to the intelligence of the GaGOP that keystrokes are wasted on such nonsense. Can we discuss how people shared an environment with dinosaurs next week?

  8. saltycracker says:

    Proposal property taxes: assessed value based on a monetized transaction on deeded filing:
    E.g. AV is the sale price plus improvements or tax assessor valuation from exchanges, barters, inheritances, settlements or questionable situations. AV is adjusted for improvements (along IRS lines) but not outside factors like inflation, deflation or transactions not part of the subject deed.

    The tax would be the established sales tax rate at deed transfer and an annual tax not to exceed 1% on non-homesteaded deeded property and o.5% on homesteaded deeded property.

    This max. limitation would apply to all taxing agencies. Local can set whatever levels or exemptions they deem in their best interest as long as it does not exceed the maximum % above of the AV.

    Example, we buy a home for $250,000, homestead it, local sales tax is 7%. Tax is $$17,500 on deed filing and a max. of $1,250 in future years. Improvements would be sales taxed and increase AV. You pay taxes on your decisions not your neighbors.

    Applies to all taxing agencies. So counties, schools, fire and so on have some sorting out locally.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      Your tax plan discourages mobility and thus people raising their own circumstances, while shifting tax burden away from the rich.

      • saltycracker says:

        While home ownership may not be for short (>5yrs) term, mobility inherently involves a financial event. Closing costs, realtor fees, impact fees get built into pricing today.

        My tax proposal helps the poor or fixed income people as the current system usually requires you to improve your income to keep your home. Helps the rich ? Buy bigger, pay bigger.
        The current system helps the rich as it pushes the poor off their land. Got lots of those examples over the last few generations.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Yes transaction costs are significant and currently built in, but you propose to nearly double them.

          With regard to a transfer of tax burden from the rich, current homestead exemptions are generally in the range of $10,000 to $60,000, or $25,000 to $150,000 at market value (taking into account the nonsense of Georgia taxing at 40% of market value). Your proposal eliminates any cap, and BTW by eliminating the cap nominally contributes to unwarranted investment in residential real estate.

          The owner of a modest $75,000 market value home with a $50,000 market value homestead exemption will pay taxes on a higher fraction of assessed value under your proposal, being taxed on $37,500 market value instead of $25,000.

          The owner of a $150,000 market value home with a $50,000 exemption currently pays taxes on 2/3 rds of a home’s value. The owner of a $500,000 home pays taxes on 9/10ths of the home’s value. The taxation value of the former’s home decreases by 25%, the latter’s by 44%.

          It’s clearly a massive transfer in property tax burden.

      • saltycracker says:

        Positive mobility increases property taxes or local public debt as communities do not have accrual funds to meet the public needs of new residents. Even assuming they budget wisely. Some communities try to ease the pain with land use/growth planning but development interests backed by the COfC and financial interests always win out.

        The above proposal helps fund new public projects without overburdening those folks in place.

        • Dave Bearse says:

          Guess it doesn’t matter that those new public projects may benefit the folks in place. And when they don’t, or additional infrastructure is needed, the funds can be raised by taxing new development accordingly.

          Your proposal requires that people purchasing existing development subsidize existing residents for maintenance and renewal of public infrastructure, which outside of exurbia, is the lion’s share of government project and infrastructure cost.

          Please provide an example of a new public project the family that purchases a 40 year old home pays for and gets for its $17,500, that a long time family already there won’t get.

          • DavidTC says:

            You’re correct. The way to deal with massive increases in population is not via property tax. That’s just absurdly convoluted to try to figure out, and is rather unfair. It’s should be done via just straight-up charging impact fees if needed.

            Sadly, in places with massive growth, developers usually own the local government, so of course there are no impact fees. Of course, if the developers didn’t own the local government, we probably wouldn’t see massive growth concentrated there in the first place!

            But as it is, two years later the schools are exploding with students and the roads are destroyed, and everyone looks around in total confusion, pretending not to know what happened.

            ‘Duh, where’d all these people come from? Whoops, better play catchup for several years to actually build the infrastructure we should have had in the first place. Time for increased taxes for all our desperately needed road expansion projects and new schools!’

            It’s completely insane, and it keeps happening. It would be nice to have some sort of *state* policy to deal with that, to keep it from happening, but it’s hard to see how that would work.

            Some sort of automatic impact fees for the next year when new housing increases a certain amount in a year, maybe? Regardless, the way to fix it is probably completely unrelated to property taxes levels or the homestead exemption.

            • saltycracker says:

              I have railed on PP of the evils of property tax as confiscatory and been a big proponent of impact fees and a leveling of taxes. Unfortunately the political world is half truths, blind convictions and reading things in that are not there.

              Don’t think we can come to any satisfactory elimination of sales, income or property taxes so we must find a level all sides can work with. The tax code needs a complete overhaul.My above remarks were confined to deeded property. The idea of increases by voodoo math is nuts.

  9. MattMD says:

    I’d also say that these same clowns who want to go to straight sales taxes in Georgia also support such stellar ideas like national retail sales taxes. I would like to know what our combined state and federal/national retail sales tax rate be? Based on their ideas, it would probably be north of 40%.

    Imagine what that would to the economy and the government in general. Imagine when a recession hits?

    Anyhow these are not serious ideas and I doubt the public would ever go for it.

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