"Don't let the smooth taste fool you" was the advertising slogan of Colt 45 malt liquor once upon a time."
I bring this up for two reasons: 1. I'm rather thirsty; and 2. I think the folks that came up with this GREAT tax plan didn't heed that alluring warning when they concocted this scheme.
The GREAT plan calls for the elimination of ad valorum taxes such as land, building, and vehicle taxes. In its stead, a four-percent sales tax will be introduced on items currently exempt from taxation - such as groceries and services like haircuts, landscaping, exterminating, and, egads, newspaper advertising!
The resolution proposing this massive change in state taxation (House Resolution 900) is set to go before the state legislature during its next session. If approved by the legislature and governor, state voters would have to approve it via referendum before it is enacted.
So, you wouldn't have to pay property tax anymore. Sounds too good to be true? That's because it is.
All these new sales taxes would go directly into state coffers in Atlanta - eliminating the position of the county tax commissioner - and then the state legislature would decide how much money goes back to your community to operate your schools, and your law enforcement, and your fire department, and your hospital, and your county road department, and so on.
The touters of this plan - specifically House Speaker Glenn Richardson - contend that Georgians will be taxed less with the GREAT plan, and that local governments "simply want to keep their power to raise your taxes regardless of whether you can pay them."
While Richardson and his underlings are selling this GREAT plan across the state, they admit the details haven't been ironed out yet, and the legislature will "fine-tune" it during the upcoming session. Urgh.
Here are just some of the problems I have with this GREAT plan.
The first clue that not much research went into the plan is found in the acronym itself. Taking the first letter of every word, Get Rid Of Every Ad Valorum Tax spells GROEAVT, not GREAT. Somebody should have caught that.
Secondly, the notion that folks in Atlanta realize our financial needs better than our local elected representatives is simply ridiculous. These same folks in Atlanta are the ones that are sending $1.4 million less to our small, rural school system than they were five years ago. Have our educational needs decreased by $1.4 million during that period? Heck no! The state has merely passed the buck to local governments to provide a larger share of essential services, which would happen even more if we left them in charge of ALL tax money.
Additionally, who are we going to complain to? It's much easier, and more effective, to register a gripe with a city council member, or a county commissioner, or a school board member, when they live in our neighborhood, than with an elected official in Atlanta.
The larger government gets, the less responsive it is to its constituents. That's just common sense.
Of course, this proposal holds a lot of appeal with folks who will benefit from it. The losers will be those who don't. A quart of milk will cost more, but not a yacht.
That said, expect some deep pockets to get involved in the ensuing debate.
To quote George Bernard Shaw, "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."
Here's hoping Peter doesn't let the smooth taste fool him.
Len Robbins is editor and publisher of The Clinch County News.