Empower Girls/Fractional SPLOST

Moderated by Rick Badie

It’s Girl Scouts cookie time, but there’s more to selling Thin Mints than meets the eye. The CEO of the greater Atlanta organization explains how the organization nurtures female leaders. And a state legislator writes about a bipartisan bill proposed in the General Assembly that would allow counties to collect a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax of less than one cent.

Empower Girls

By Amy Dosik

When you see a Girl Scout selling Thin Mints in your neighborhood, know that there are more than just cookies in the box. Girls who participate in the cookie program are a part of the largest girl-led financial literacy program in the United States.

Girls who run their own cookie business learn goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. These skills will benefit them throughout their lives. By supporting Girl Scouts, you make an investment in our community and the next generation of female leaders.

Today’s Girl Scouts is about much more than cookies, though. Participants discover the importance of environmental stewardship as they explore the world around them. Girl Scouts gain exposure to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) careers through robotics competitions and mentoring programs with female engineers. They learn to make healthy food choices and embrace behaviors that promote their lifelong physical and emotional well-being.

Most importantly, Girl Scouts help young women develop the courage, confidence and character to be effective advocates for themselves and others. And that multiplies the benefits of the organization in their communities..

This year, nearly 100 “Girl Scout Gold Award” recipients demonstrated extraordinary leadership through the completion of “take action” projects in their communities. These high school-age participants raised funds to combat Alzheimer’s disease by publishing a children’s book; created a multimedia resource database to raise awareness among girls and their teachers about STEM career opportunities, and increased awareness and availability of native trees for planting in Georgia.

Last year, local Girl Scouts of all ages contributed more than 400,000 hours of volunteer service in the 34-county area served by Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

While a majority of girls want to be leaders, not all girls have the same opportunities. Girls in our community face challenges that include high rates of poverty, health issues such as obesity and depression, and limited access to community resources that prevent them from making a successful transition to adulthood.

For these girls, Girl Scouting can make a world of difference. More than 93 percent of girls tell us it helped them discover personal strengths and talents and allowed them to do things they would not get to do otherwise. Women who were Girl Scouts attain higher levels of education and earn higher incomes compared to their peers. The benefits last a lifetime and transcend race, ethnicity and socioeconomic class.

This year, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta will provide financial support to more than 6,000 girls who otherwise would not have access to the life-changing experiences Girl Scouts offers. Join me in making girls — and Girl Scouting — a priority in our community. My goal, by 2020, is to provide financial support to at least 20,000 of the girls who need us the most. When our girls succeed, our community succeeds.

Amy Dosik is chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Fractional SPLOSTs make sense and cents

By John Carson

I believe in reducing the tax burden on our citizens and increasing government accountability. This is why I am sponsoring legislation in this year’s General Assembly that would allow Georgia’s counties to collect a sales tax of less than 1 cent.

Imagine that if each time you went to the supermarket to pick up a few household items, you were required to purchase $100 worth of stuff. You would be forced to buy items that were unneeded, more expensive or possibly both. Our families don’t operate like this. Neither should our government.

Current Georgia law allows counties to propose a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for assessing and collecting a 1 cent sales tax. Usually lasting four, five or six years, and sometimes shared with cities, the funds are used for capital projects such as road construction and other infrastructure. However, a SPLOST is currently required to be 1 percent, with no flexibility for a lower rate.

Since some counties and cities have well-developed infrastructure, the 1 one-percent rate can raise more revenue than necessary to fund critically needed capital projects. Because these funds must be spent on capital projects, some jurisdictions create non-essential projects to ensure all revenue is spent. These non-essential projects could require additional maintenance funds, which must come from a county’s general budget.

During the 2013 General Assembly, I introduced HB 153. It allows counties to propose a fractional SPLOST tax percentage, meaning less than 1 cent. (It’s important to note this legislation allows an option for a lower rate on future SPLOST referendums and is not a new or additional SPLOST.)

Some suggest just shortening the SPLOST’s duration, but this leads to changing sales tax rates more frequently, not to mention that a consistent, lower sales tax rate can lead to more revenue when economic development is factored in in later years.

According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, at least 22 of the 37 states that have local option sales taxes allow a fractional rate. Georgia already charges a fractional percentage for the gasoline excise tax, 7.5 cents per gallon. If counties chose to reduce their SPLOST rate by one-half of 1 percent, for example, this could save the average Georgia family $80 to $100 a year.

A bipartisan bill, HB 153 is supported by county commissioners, the Georgia Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity, several business associations and taxpayer associations statewide. This group may seem like strange friends after 2012’s T-SPLOST vote, but we are united behind this fiscally responsible legislation.

I believe this is a necessary tool to encourage local governments to focus on essential projects while lessening the burden on taxpayers. The fractional SPLOST makes cents and sense.

State Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, represents District 46.

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