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New tax plan worth watching
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It looks like more state legislators have caught House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s anti-property tax bug and that could be a good thing, though the proof will be in what comes to pass later, not what’s happening now.

Still, word that the Senate Finance Committee passed a proposal Thursday to let cities, counties and school boards hold referendums to lower property taxes in exchange for local sales taxes is good news. The plan, by Senate Republican Whip Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg) would let voters decide if they want to swap property taxes for sales taxes.

"This would be a contract with voters," Seabaugh told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "This is to be used solely for reducing property taxes."

Under Seabaugh’s measure, the local school system, county or city that calls for the referendum would have to say how far they plan on rolling back property taxes and impose a cap to keep it at the rollback level during the four-year life of the sales tax, if it was approved.

That’s a different approach from the so-called GREAT plan initially proposed by Richardson, which called for the elimination of all ad valorem or property taxes and replacing them with sales taxes - and the elimination of most exemptions from sales taxes on most exemptions from goods and services. But critics say the measure would strip matters of government funding from local control while also putting more of a burden on the poor, who would be paying more in taxes on food and medicine.

Richardson has since modified his plan to eliminate only the school portion of property taxes, but the bill remains in the Senate Finance Committee and is apparently going to stay there awhile, according to the AJC. Whether his version - or one such as that proposed by Seabaugh - gets to the point it can be approved by voters remains to be seen. Similarly, a proposal by Gov. Sonny Perdue to eliminate the state’s 0.25 mill property tax assessment is a good idea, though it will mean less than $50 in savings for most homeowners.

And it’s homeowners, by the way, who need to step up and keep their elected state representative’s feet to the fire during this legislative session if they want to see real property tax reform. Otherwise, expect business - and taxes - as usual.

- Bryan County News

Feb. 2, 2008

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