Robin Hood used to steal from the rich to give to the poor.

The Georgia General Assembly takes a different approach: Give to the rich and take from the middle class.

That approach is clearly outlined in a report released this week by the non-profit, non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington.

The ITEP report zeroes in on the budget for the 2010 fiscal year that the General Assembly approved on April 3. The budget “includes a major new tax cut (an exclusion for long-term capital gains income) and a substantial tax increase (eliminating a state-funded property tax relief program,” the report says. “ … The net impact of these two provisions will likely be a substantial tax increase on most low- and middle-income Georgians, and a very large tax cut for a small group of the very wealthiest Georgia tax payers.”

If the cut in capital gains tax had been in effect in the 2008 tax year, ITEP says, Georgia residents would have seen a total tax cut of about $340 million. But 77 percent of the cut would have gone to the richest 1 percent of the state’s citizens. Eighty percent of citizens would have gotten less than 1 percent of the benefits.

While legislators were playing nice to the rich, they also voted to repeal the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant, which essentially pays most taxes on the first $8000 of a homestead’s assessed value.

“Enacted almost a decade ago,” the report says, “the HTRG currently reduces Georgia homeowner property taxes by about $430 million a year.”

Granted, this program could be reformed. The Tax Relief Grant program makes no distinction between the wealthiest homeowners and the poorest, and it provides no relief for renters.

But the combination of the Legislature’s changes to both capital gains taxes and the Homeowner Tax Relief program means that 95 percent of tax payers will pay more, while the top 5 percent will pay less, ITEP’s analysis shows.

ITEP’s director, Matthew Gardner, put it this way: “Georgia lawmakers have sent Governor (Sonny) Perdue a budget that dramatically shifts the cost of funding public services away from the wealthiest Georgia taxpayers, and further burdens middle- and low-income families.”

The Legislature has done its work. Now, Gov. Perdue will have to decide whether to sign off on the plan.

Where is Robin Hood when we need him?

To read more details on the ITEP report, click here then choose Georgia under the heading ITEP Reports.

Keith Graham

Keith Graham

Keith Graham was among the recipients of the prestigious Stella Artois prize at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. Named for a blind piano player, he is also well known for always giving money to street accordion players. A quotation that he considers meaningful comes from the Irish writer Roddy Doyle: "The family trees of the poor don't grow to any height." In addition to contributing to Like the Dew, Keith frequently posts quotations and links and occasionally longer articles at