Thursday, March 20, 2008

Crossover Week Update

Last week, the House has crossed the 30th day of our 40 day legislative session. This is the day that a bill must have passed at least one body in order to have a chance of becoming law. With some changes to the legislation that fell short last week the House of Representatives had a second opportunity to vote for the largest tax cut in Georgia’s history.

You may recall that last week an effort in the House to allow Georgians to vote to eliminate the tax on personal vehicles fell ten votes shy of the necessary two-thirds for placement on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. Fortunately, the House Republican leadership felt so strongly that this was the right thing to do the measure was brought back for further consideration in another piece of legislation. The legislation was amended to reflect changes in the original proposal that failed last week. However, the two most critical parts of the tax reform, the freeze on property values for taxation purposes and the elimination of the car tax remain in the legislation that passed the House 166-5 on Wednesday with overwhelming bi-partisan support.

The new tax cut bill will give Georgians the chance to vote to eliminate the ‘birthday tax’ on personal vehicles over a two year period and cap assessments on residential property at 2% per year and commercial property at 3% per year, until such time as a property is sold and revalued at the sales price, which is the true fair market value. This will ensure properties are being taxed at their actual market value and bring needed reform to the property assessment process. The proposal also includes a provision for the state to refund to local communities all revenues that each governmental entity would have derived from the car tax, putting the tax cut on the back of the state. If enacted by the Senate and approved by Georgia’s voters in November, our State’s citizens will save more than $1 billion the first two years the law is in effect, making it the largest tax cut in Georgia’s history.

With the economy lagging now is the time for real tax relief. This is exactly what Fayette County and our State needs. It has been proven over and over again that the economy grows when government taxes less and taxpayers get to keep and spend more of their hard earned money as they see fit. When the economy grows, jobs are created, home ownership increases, salaries go up, all of which contributes to an increased tax base. Significant tax relief is precisely the stimulus our State’s economic needs. I am strongly encouraging my colleagues in the Senate to take up this measure and give our citizens the right to vote on this important tax relief in November.

Atlanta has Grady Hospital, a Level 1 Trauma Care Center, and if you are seriously injured in Fayette County it doesn’t take long to get there. But there are large areas of our State that are hours from a trauma center. In fact, Georgians have the worst access to Level 1 Trauma Care of any state in the southeastern United States. If Georgians vote in November to eliminate the car tax, a separate measure passed this week would provide that a $10 fee would be included in the vehicle registration process to help fund a state-wide trauma care network. Rather than paying hundreds on the car tax, Georgians would pay the current $20 registration fee plus a $10 fee to fund a statewide trauma care network. It is imperative that we support the trauma hospitals we do have and provide for new ones, as they are vital lifelines for Georgians in need of immediate critical care. We have lost far too many citizens in our State due to a lack of an adequate trauma network and it is time to get serious about fixing the problem.

You may have heard this week that Governor Perdue has lowered the revenue projections for this state. For us in the legislature, this means that we must revise the budgets we have been working on. While this does mean there is less revenue in 2008 than projected, I again reiterate that the House remains committed to funding our education needs and restoring all “austerity” cuts that have been made in recent years. The House will continue to work diligently to get those funds to our schools soon and without strings attached.

I will continue to keep you up to date on our actions as the legislative session progresses. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at my Capitol office at (404) 656- 0109. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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