The senate made great strides this week in bringing needed relief to Georgians on the road and at home.
We successfully passed the most sweeping form of transportation legislation in Georgia history, and are also keeping property taxes low by passing a measure to fund the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grants this year, and in addition, doubling the Homestead Tax Exemptions from $2,000 to $4,000.
Once again, transportation dominated business under the Gold Dome as the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Giving voters the choice of levying up to a 1 percent sales tax in their county or region to fund transportation projects puts the decision making as close to the people as possible.
The goal of this voter-driven measure is to allow taxpayers to put their hard-earned money towards those projects they feel need funding the most.
It’s their dollars funding these projects and they should have the right to decide how and where that new money is spent, ensuring that they are the ones who reap the benefits of the projects.
My colleagues and I have heard numerous concerns from our constituents on losing the HTRG funds, and I can assure you that we have been listening.
We are committed to finding the money for these grants for this fiscal year.
Times are tight right now, and we understand the burden that could be placed on a homeowner if they received an unexpected bill for $200 to $300 in property taxes. Families need that money now more than ever, sometimes just to cover the basic necessities.
Under House Bill 143, the General Assembly is mandated to fund the HTRG for the 2009 amended budget, currently a $428 million shortfall. The bill also changes the manner and method for appropriating these funds for future years, allowing the HTRG to be funded in the future only from a budget surplus.
If the funding is available, it will be allocated to the supplemental fiscal year budget with the appropriate rate change to reflect the consumer price index and inflation. However, it’s imperative that we get a handle on the growth of government and taxes at the local level.
From FY 01 to FY 08, according to the Department of Revenue, the local tax rate increase over that period was from 66 percent to a high of 144 percent, or an average of 109 percent for the eight counties in the 51st District.
The senate also successfully passed Senate Bill 83 to double the Homestead Tax Exemption from $2,000 to $4,000. Statistics show that when taking inflation into account since the exemption’s establishment over 70 years ago, a $2,000 exemption in the 1930s would equate to approximately a $32,000 exemption in today’s economy. It’s about time that homeowners were provided adequate relief, particularly in the recent wake of a staggering number of foreclosures across the nation.
We are doing all we can to make sure people can stay in their homes.
The budget continues to be a pressing issue for all lawmakers, and the senate is working quickly to prepare for the House’s budget proposal.
All Senate Appropriations subcommittees held hearings throughout this week and last to delve into each agency’s individual budget. I was proud to chair the Economic Development subcommittee meeting, where we took a close look at the core mission of each program to determine what cost savings can be realized with the least impact on services to Georgians. Expect budget discussions to reach high gear in the coming weeks, as there is a strong movement in the legislature to move quickly on passing the budget.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee.
Chip Pearson may be reached at (404) 656-9921 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>