In addition to the top of the ticket Governor and Senate races and the other offices that will be voted on in November, voters will decide on an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. It reads, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the maximum state income tax rate?”
The question is a result of Senate Resolution 415, which was sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer. It would keep the maximum income tax rate at 6%, and it has been endorsed by many as an incentive for companies to locate in the Peach State. It is also seen as an incentive to discuss tax reform in general, and a possible consumption based FairTax at the state level.
In a recent article, the AJC called the ballot proposal a way to drive Republican voters to the polls.
During debate on Shafer’s proposed amendment last session, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker, said, “We are doing this, as we often do during an election year, to make a claim or make a boast that we’ve done something. The only reason we’re doing it is so we have a campaign tool during an election year. It’s not a pressing problem.”
Nonetheless, some of Henson’s fellow Democrats supported the measure. Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, the party’s nominee for governor, voted to put the issue on the ballot when Shafer’s resolution came before the chamber Feb. 24. When it was up for final approval on the last day of the session, Carter was the only senator who didn’t vote, although it passed easily without him. Carter’s campaign said last week that he supports the amendment.
When asked about the politics behind his amendment, Shafer said, “It’s designed to encourage people to create jobs here. People who have jobs tend to vote Republican, so anything we can do to create jobs is helpful politically.”
If the goal of the amendment was to drive voters to the polls, it’s not an issue that has been brought up too loudly on the stump, which is what one would expect if it were being used as a wedge issue.
Instead, it’s quite possible the measure was brought up as a preemptive move should the Democratic party take control of the Governor’s Mansion, and eventually, the Gold Dome. Before their website went down, Atlanta Progressive News had a story noting that the cap would limit the ability to make the income tax more progressive.
Based on recent polling by Landmark Communications, Democrats may understand the threat. When the firm asked likely voters if they would vote for the amendment, yeas outpolled nays 48% to 27%, with 25% undecided. But while the measure received strong GOP support with 64% for, 15% against, and 22% undecided, Democrats were in opposition, with 34% for, 39% against, and 27% undecided. Independents and supporters of other parties were more supportive of the measure than the Democrats were.
House Bill 990 took away the ability of a governor to opt in to the expanded Medicaid program envisioned as part of the Affordable Care Act. When it passed, some viewed it as a way to limit the options of a future Jason Carter governorship. Is the income tax cap the same type of defensive medicine?