Battle For The Bottom

Two Gwinnett County legislators aren’t serving the public interest in proposing a measure before the recent session of the Legislature. It gets worse — for we anticipate they will bring up this proposal again at next year’s General Assembly meeting.

Both Sen. David Shafer and Rep. Tom Kirby are behind proposals to eliminate Georgia’s income tax. You may remember both neighboring Florida and Tennessee have no state income tax. Neither does Texas. These two legislators maintain that Georgia having a state income tax is bad for us in competing against these nearby states for new businesses.

The only problem is that when politicians remove one tax, they always look for a way to replace the revenue that the tax brought in. The state income tax revenue brings in a whopping $7.6 billion annually to the state treasury (2011). In fact, it’s about half of the entire state budget! That’s a lot of money to replace with another tax.

Accounting Unit, Finance Department, Georgia Department of Revenue - monthly release of net revenue collections

We can see the legislators’ reasoning in wanting Georgia to compete on an even basis with other states to attract newcomers, primarily retirees. What we can’t understand is the manner that these two guys propose to replace this revenue for the state.

Evidently both legislators either never took, or else failed miserably, a course in economics. Add that they also have missed the outcome of what has been happening for the last several years, the economic slowdown. What puzzles us is why they propose replacing the lost income tax revenue with a sales tax.

130405chartOf all taxes, sales tax is the one you can surely count on to fall off dramatically in hard times. You need look no farther than the Gwinnett County sales tax returns for the last several years to see this. After all, in economic hard times, people stop buying more goods. Indeed, sales fall off in almost every category, resulting in tax collections nosediving.

Check out this table for the last few years’ collection of both the Gwinnett SPLOST tax, and the additional E-SPLOST, both being a one cent tax on all retail sales in the county. Note how the tax has resulted in lower revenue for both the county and the school board:

Georgia State Senator David Shafer and Representative Tom Kirby
Georgia State Senator David Shafer
and Representative Tom Kirby

Both Senator Shafer and Rep. Kirby portray themselves as fiscal conservatives. What a laugh! How can you call yourself a conservative when you are in effect proposing a new tax, while at the same time, eliminating a major source of the state’s income! It makes us wonder how any legislator can say they are against new taxes, yet still make this proposal.

Another consideration: these legislators are going against the grain of other legislative proposals, such as the one (Senate Resolution 415) that would prohibit any increase in the Georgia sales tax. Now that’s being fiscally conservative!

Senator Shafer and Rep. Kirby may have good intentions. It’s just that they have a blind spot as to what happens when things don’t go swimmingly. Not only that, they may not realize they’re tinkering with HALF the state income. That’s why we need to send them to the woodshed on this proposal to eliminate the state income tax and replace it with a sales tax.

Shame on you, legislators, for not recognizing the obvious. Too bad you missed or flunked the economics course, then didn’t realize what happens during a recession and don’t recognize the enormity of your bad proposal.

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Editor's note: This story originally published at the GwinnettForum.com.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.