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ASK THE EXPERTS

Easier to agree on what we don’t want

POSTED: March 30, 2011 4:00 a.m.

It’s a whole lot easier getting agreement at this point on what we don’t want to see in the tax reform bill than what we do. I have received dozens of e-mails asking me not to vote for HB 385 because the Council on Tax Reform recommended taxing some of their favorite things. 

 

So far the Joint House-Senate Committee has agreed that:

 

1. HB 385 will not eliminate the Senior Citizens State Income Tax exemption. It will maintain the current $35,000 ($70,000 for a married couple) exemption; and,

 

2. HB 385 will not tax Girl Scout cookies, veterinary services, groceries, prescription medicines, haircuts, AAA memberships, dry cleaning or increase taxes on cigarettes.

 

As yet, I do not know how or what taxes will be put in place. As your State Representative my job is to carry your concerns to the committee.

 

HB 385 is also the Jobs bill that everyone has been waiting for this year.

 

The council found that cutting personal income tax rates would be the most advantageous change Georgia could make to attract high-technology companies and high paying, quality jobs for Georgians. Alterations to the tax code are intended to be revenue neutral.

 

The proposed changes to HB 385 would create job opportunities by flattening the personal income tax rate. It lowers the personal income tax rate by 2.5 percent (from 6 percent to 4.5 percent) possibly even lower. Tennessee and Florida have no personal income tax and Alabama’s tax is 5 percent. The bill keeps the current deduction for contributions to college savings plans and social security. 

 

The council was composed of economists, business leaders and citizens.

 

Working with the General Assembly, they established principles and guidelines, and traveled the entire state to find an answer to the question: “What can make Georgia a better destination for business partners that will bring job opportunities for Georgia’s citizens?”

 

Georgia is one of only 14 states in the nation and one of two states in the Southeast that imposes a sales tax on energy use by manufacturers (North Carolina taxes energy at a reduced rate).

 

Manufacturers are among the largest users of electricity and natural gas. High energy costs are repeatedly cited as significant obstacles to the manufacturing sector because they are often the single largest expense in the manufacturing process. Eliminating the sales tax on energy for agriculture, mining and manufacturing will greatly help our traditional industries and mean jobs for Georgians.

 

When I talked with representatives of the carpet industry, I was told that over half of the production cost of the carpet is the cost of energy. All of those costs are passed on to you, the consumer. By reducing costs to the manufacturers, we are making them more competitive by allowing them to sell at lower prices. We are encouraging other manufacturing businesses to move to Georgia and hire more of our citizens. This measure will instantly make Georgia more competitive as we try to bring jobs to our state and fight through this economic recovery. Most importantly, it will allow hard-working Georgians to keep more of their money.

 

Now that some of the census data is out, questions are coming in concerning redistricting.

 

The Speaker has reminded us that a special session will be called in late summer for that purpose and that we still have important legislation to consider in this session. He has asked us not to request or suggest any redistricting changes at this time. 

 

I was a new State Representative in 2001 when we did the last redistricting. 

 

Many of you may remember that the maps drawn by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly were ruled unconstitutional, resulting in new maps being drawn by a panel of three federal judges. The Speaker has asked me to assure you that whatever we do will be fair, just and constitutional.

 

The special session will look at Congressional, State House and State Senate districts. If the Governor allows local legislation, we may get to look at county commission and school board districts. 

 

I want to thank the 50-plus constituents who came to Ryan’s last Saturday to express concerns and ask questions. Some of their concerns dealt with property tax assessments, the airport authority, lack of city-county communication and highway intersection safety. This was the largest turnout of constituents at my Saturday morning breakfasts with constituents in 11 years.

 

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone, (404) 657-7857; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail, amos.amerson@house.ga.gov. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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