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Johnson: Egos got in the way of state legislators
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Senator Johnson talks property taxes.

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Senator President Pro Tem Eric Johnson discussed the 2008 legislative session, which concluded April 4, at the Rotary lunch Thursday.

Johnson said the session started "poorly," noting it’s difficult to compare legislators to people like county commissioners or Board of Education members – people who do their jobs every day – to a group of "part-timers trying to figure out a $1 billion budget in 40 days."

"In politics, it’s still about compromise," he said. "You have to have to have ways to work together and, unfortunately, on taxes we weren’t able to do that."

At the end of the session, Johnson said personalities and egos got in the way.

Johnson touched upon Speaker Glenn Richardson’s GREAT plan, which he said "didn’t make sense" and out of 107 Republicans, Richardson had roughly 24 votes in favor of it. Richardson’s second plan was presented as the elimination of the car tax bill.

"When the Senate responded to that with an income tax cut over five years, (Richardson) said we’d attacked his well thought out plan," Johnson said. "The other issue with property taxes is – they’re local. The Speaker is still trying to have us cut local taxes and send money to local governments. That doesn’t make any sense, either."

Johnson said local spending has increased faster than state spending.

"If you want to get to the heart of taxes, you need to control spending," he said. "That doesn’t mean Bryan County is wasting money. You just can’t do a one-size fits all version (of tax reform)."

The Senate’s income tax proposal was basically laughed at by the house, he said. Other proposals, including a statewide version of Stephens-Day and a bill to freeze all property taxes to an inflation rate, also failed.

"The House said they agreed with both of those, but they didn’t pass it," he said. "On the last day, because the Speaker wanted the car tax cut and the lieutenant governor wanted income tax cut and they couldn’t get together on that – but we all agreed on the other two – the House wouldn’t put them (on the ballot)."

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