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Belton: Budget time in the legislative session
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The second week of the Georgia legislative session always deals with developing a budget. This week was no different as the governor and the general assembly worked together to address the requests of the different departments. I’m very gratified that almost $15M in grants and investments were awarded to your district last year.

Many people ask me how Georgia compares to other states in reference to taxes. Corporately, Georgia has the second lowest call center, the third lowest manufacturing, and the fourth lowest distribution taxes in the nation. We’re also 15th lowest in research and development, 16th lowest in corporate headquarters, and 18th lowest in retail taxes. Those low numbers contribute mightily to our third year in a row “Best State in the Nation to Do Business In” status.

Individually, if you add up the average state income tax, state sales tax, and local sales tax in Georgia, it comes to about 13 cents per dollar, about fifth lowest in the nation and about average for the South. Arkansas is the worst at 21 cents, then Louisiana at 15, and South Carolina, Oklahoma and Alabama at 14. Georgia and North Carolina are at 13, Kentucky and Mississippi are at 12, Virginia is at 11, Tennessee is at 10, Texas is at eight, and Florida is the very best at 7 cents per dollar. Georgia is about average in the South in property taxes as well. South Carolina is worst at 2.7 percent, while Texas and Florida are right behind at 2.5 percent. Mississippi is 2.0 percent and Georgia and Tennessee are at 1.7 percent. Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas are all about 1.3 percent, while Kentucky, Alabama, and North Carolina are the best at 1.0 percent.

Newton had some impressive economic numbers last year. Tourism increased 11 percent bringing in 35,000 visitors and $120M. Festivals were huge; we had 10,000 in Covington for the fourth of July and more than five major movies were made. We’ve had 31 ribbon cuttings, including four businesses and two restaurants on the Square, and the Chamber landed 22 new projects creating over 3,000 jobs worth $300M. The Chamber grew by 20 percent and was recognized as one of the 50th best in Georgia. For the third year in a row, Georgia was the 4th best in the nation in job creation last year, yet Newton literally tripled the state. Congratulations to the Newton Chamber for a really excellent year.

Atlanta is also doing very well, winning awards such as “The Best City for Millennials” and “Best City for Jobs” in the nation as well as “7th Best City of the Future” in the entire world. The ATL is being called the “New Silicon Valley” because of its record numbers of high-tech industries, producing new jobs at twice the national rate. Atlanta is now the 3rd best city in the nation in most Fortune 1,000 headquarters, sporting four Fortune 100 and 18 Fortune 500 companies along with many, many others. Yet for all those impressive numbers, Atlanta is still relatively affordable. If you factor in cost of living, a $50K salary in Atlanta is equivalent to $61K in Seattle or Chicago, $72K in Washington DC, $84K in San Francisco, or a whopping $115 in New York. With a low tax burden and a low cost of living, it’s easy to see why so many young people are flocking to Georgia.

I was delighted to honor the Arts Association of Newton County with a Special Invite Resolution in the People’s House of Georgia this week. Students Molly Cady and Alex Lowe spoke from the Speaker’s well, demonstrating with their vigor and professionalism the style and confidence the Arts brings to these brilliant students. School Board Member Abigail Morgan Coggin, Buncie Hay Lanners, Christie and Vaughn Cady, Wendy Lowe, Jodi Atkins, and Michelle Bryant Johnson were also on the Floor in attendance.

As always, I am eager to hear how you feel about these topics. I hope you’ll continue to pray for me, and contact me with your constructive comments at or 706-372-4114.

Dave Belton is in his second year as the District 112 Georgia Representative. The Morgan and Newton County representative is serving in his first term in Georgia’s House. He is a resident of Morgan County.