We always like to hear about a tax cut. We hope that our legislators study what the benefits of the cut would be and do some research and budgeting to make sure we have enough money in the state bank account to pay for essentials. By law, we can’t have a deficit in Georgia.
But this is an election year. Our legislators didn’t really study the consequences of reducing revenue in a state that has one of the lowest tax revenue collections in the whole country. They just knew that this year they needed a little boost to make sure people would vote for them in November.
There are at least eight programs that could have been bolstered or added had we left our tax structure alone. As it is a family with a yearly income of $46,000 or less will see a $40 a year tax cut—$3.30 per month. Of course, wealthy people and corporations will see much more, but that is usually what tax cuts are all about in a Republican run state.
Below are eight programs that would benefit all Georgians and that could easily have been accomplished had the Republicans not slashed our tax revenue by $1.4 billion.
1. Austerity cuts to public education need to be stopped. Since the Republicans took office 15 years ago, $9.4 billion has been cut from public education including K-12 and post-secondary. Local school boards have had to take up the slack and in some cases raise millage or drop essential programs. University and technical college tuitions have almost doubled.
2. Medicaid could have been expanded. Medicaid covers about half of the people in Georgia who live at or below the poverty level. Republicans believe that able-bodied men should not receive Medicaid, that they should get a job that is covered by health insurance. The problem with that philosophy is that over 50 percent of people at the poverty level have full time jobs that don’t offer health insurance and pay so little families can’t afford to buy it. Rural hospitals are closing all over our state because they can’t afford to continue free care for these people.
3. Technical colleges should have free tuition. This was the case before the aforementioned Republican initiated austerity cuts. Because tuition has risen so much, HOPE grants can no longer cover it. As a result, low income people who need to go back to school to get training in better paying careers cannot afford to attend. Enrollment in technical colleges has dropped dramatically.
4. The state could have paid the $77 million for public school transportation costs that it passed on to the local boards this year.
5. Teacher pensions are in danger mostly caused by the austerity cuts (lower pay, fewer teachers contributing).
6. Create a need-based college tuition program.
7. Enact a state “earned income tax credit.”
8. We could provide universal child care for low income families.
All of these could have been provided using the $1.4 billion tax cut just enacted. Help the folks who would be impacted by these programs and you lift up the whole state.