The House Resolution 900, or GREAT Plan, was recently compared to the fateful Titanic, by Georgia Municipal Association Executive Director Jim Higdon.
Higdon spoke at a legislative session in Richmond Hill on Oct. 24. Richmond Hill and Pembroke city officials were joined by a state representatives and other District 12 officials to hear more about GMA’s take on the GREAT (Georgia Repealing Every Ad Valorem Tax) Plan, proposed by House Speaker Glenn Richardson.
"The GREAT Plan appears to be the self-proclaimed Titanic of tax reform plans: unsinkable, according to its builders; full speed ahead and forget the icebergs, according to its captain. It’s not time to abandon ship, but it is time for us to insist that a change in course occur, because the smallest navigational error could sink the state’s economic future," Higdon said.
Among local officials, Mayor Richard Davis agreed, saying the plan would be a "pure mess."
Senator Eric Johnson also spoke out, noting the importance of the state coming together in 2008.
"There are some positives to it. As you know, property taxes are the most emotional tax that you can collect. It’s the hardest to raise, and it’s the most frustrating for citizens. It could potentially take the pressure off citizens, but if you start taxing every service, it still doesn’t seem to match up," he said. "There are some serious questions to how this would work. All I want is for the legislators to have an educated decision."
Higdon said local officials would lose all control under the plan, and local businesses would take a big blow from the new sales taxes being initiated to make up for the loss of property taxes.
"Rather than paying your property taxes once a year, you’ll pay it in small increments all year long," Higdon said.
While Higdon compared this experience to "bleeding to death from a thousand paper cuts," Richardson’s Communication Director Clelia Davis said it will provide residents with more control.
"In some sense, he’s right because you won’t pay it all it once," Davis said. "In another sense, it’s a better plan because you have the control over what you’re paying for. You make the decision on how much you can afford. With property taxes, you don’t know what that tax is going to be until you get it, and if you can’t afford to pay it, you lose your house."
But the GREAT Plan is a tax shift – not a tax reform, the GMA said. They support "real tax reform, which should be done in a comprehensive, deliberate, inclusive and informed manner, not through public pronouncement lacking data or design," according to a GMA handout.
"I can tell you they’re not enamored with the program, but there is no general consensus from the commission," County Administrator Phil Jones said, noting several of the commissioners will be attending a House Resolution 900 information session next week. Given by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, it will be held at Savannah State University’s Savannah Ballroom on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 4-6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. Additional information can be found at the GMA web site at www.gmanet.com.