Although we are facing the toughest economic times in recent memory, the 2009 Session of the General Assembly proved to be a successful one for Georgians.
We delivered on our commitments to balance the budget and address key issues such as tax relief, transportation, education and trauma care funding.
In this the third, and last, in my wrap up articles about the 2009 Session, I will address tax relief. Tax relief for Georgians was a key issue for House Republicans. You have told us over and over again that ad valorem taxes are the most hated taxes in Georgia.
We considered a series of measures to combat ever-increasing property tax bills.
We made good on our commitment to fully fund the Homeowners’ Tax Relief Grant, even in this difficult economic environment.
HB 233 puts a moratorium on all property tax assessment increases for the next two years.
This will help Georgians who are already struggling with out-of-control property taxes and give us more time to work out an agreement to slow the escalation of assessments.
House Republicans voted to cap property tax assessments at three percent and to raise the statewide homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000.
Unfortunately, these measures required a two-thirds vote to pass. On four separate occasions, House Democrats voted to kill the increased homestead exemption and property tax cap.
Both of these measures needed a two-thirds vote because they would require you to vote in November 2010 to change the Georgia Constitution.
However, we still have the 2010 Session to work with the other side of the aisle to bring meaningful homeowner tax relief to Georgians.
This session we used tax relief to provide an economic stimulus to Georgia’s economy. HB 481 — the Jobs Opportunity and Business Success Act (JOBS Act) — was introduced as a package of legislation to create, expand and attract jobs for Georgia’s unemployed workers.
By combining a series of tax cuts, fee suspensions, and incentives to hire unemployed Georgians, this legislation will harness the intellectual capital, entrepreneurial spirit and industrial grit of our workers to help make the economy strong again.
Last week it was reported that Gold Creek Foods would probably buy the old Mohawk facility. In anticipation of this and many other transactions across the state, we passed the JOBS Act.
Here is how this act will benefit Gold Creek Foods if they open a new plant in Dahlonega: 1) a quarterly tax credit towards unemployment insurance for each eligible employee hired. 2) a $2,400 income tax credit for each eligible employee hired. 3) a “New Business Tax Holiday.” The $100 fee will be waived for all new businesses formed over the next year.
The JOBS Act also phases out the Sales Tax Deposit, abolishes the Net Worth Tax, and cuts the Capital Gains Tax in half.
On April 10, I wrote about transportation reform and the creation of a DOT Division of Planning in order to better focus statewide planning.
The DOT Board has voted to ask the Governor to veto the bill. The bill, as passed, would take allocation of dollars away from the board.
If the governor signs the bill, no longer will state transportation dollars be allocated by people un-elected and insulated from the public. The decisions will be made by people who answer to you — your elected representatives.
Last fall House Republicans set a goal for themselves to bring change to Georgia in four important areas: transportation, trauma care, teaching and taxes.
Through our efforts, we are on our way to a better transportation system for our entire state, which includes slowing down unsafe drivers and funding trauma care services.
We are moving forward in education and working on distinctive projects and initiatives that will help the best students meet their educational goals. Finally, we will continue to fight for much needed property tax relief and to work with our colleagues across the aisle to continue to lower taxes for all Georgians.
Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail email@example.com. Or, contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.