It took an election year but, finally, the Republicans are beginning to talk about some specifics of smaller government. I think what puzzles me the most has been their entire approach to the revenue decline in Georgia. Small government rhetoric is nothing new but when finally given a golden opportunity to implement significant government cuts without a significant public backlash, they take an approach that defies logic. Unless, of course, there is little left to cut and they are engaging in smoke and mirrors.
First, they tell us these are lean times so we’re going to tighten our belt, implying that as soon as revenues increase, we can loosen our belts again and everything will go back to the way it was before the decline. Shouldn’t they be talking about permanent government downsizing instead? Lt. Governor Cagle, to his credit, says we should get out of the “golf course and hotel business,” meaning that Brasstown Resort should be sold to private industry. He also has said that “we have to continue to look for more efficiencies within state government” and should look at surplus real estate and office space to see “whether we’re maximizing the space.” I thought that is what they were elected to do eight years ago.
Second, the Republican mantra about taxes appears to have serious flaws. They say they are for tax cuts and against raising taxes. But, as Cagle has pointed out, in “excess of 85 percent of every dollar” collected is spent on higher education, public safety, and health care. And that is after they slashed billions of dollars from the state education budget over the last eight years. And after using more than one billion dollars of federal stimulus funds to balance the state budget last year. So what is their solution?
We have a clue from their actions in the last legislative session. As the columnist for Reclining Right in the Union Sentinel said last week, “[Stephen Allison, R-NGa] has clearly explained that raising fees on items that a majority of Georgians do not use … is a move in the right direction….” Please note the key words that are underlined because that is their new philosophy on taxes.
In other words, they will nickel and dime the minority of Georgians because that is acceptable. Those are the Georgians who are least likely to be able to afford increased fees, the working poor. In the same vein, they really like to raise taxes on “sinners” because whose going to complain if they are punished? The smokers, the drinkers, the speeders, and others have to cast more money into the government coffers, a tacit admission by Republicans that government requires funds to operates, that there is little to cut in the current government structure, and they have to engage in subterfuge to raise the necessary funds. For Republicans, the issue is not raising taxes. The issue is who will suffer the tax increase. So what will happen when they run out of “sin” taxes, “fee” increases, and federal stimulus funds?
Finally, Republicans are showing us that they are all about shifting the tax burden from businesses to families. Allison brags about the Georgia Jobs Bill which reduces the tax burden on business. Since Cagle has told us state government is about as small as it can get without hacking into the bone, only the tax payers are left to make up the loss of revenue from business. Unless, of course, you buy that pig in the poke that businesses have to be bribed to create jobs. And, that government is responsible for job creation.