A group of advocates for the poor and elderly, including the American Association of Retired Persons, this morning called on Gov. Sonny Perdue to veto legislation that would eliminate income tax rebates of $26 to $52 that go to low-income Georgians.
“Let’s correct this inequity,” said AARP lobbyist Kathy Floyd at a press conference at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
About 1 million Georgians with income below $20,000 a year receive state income tax credits. The credits were designed about 20 years ago to reimburse the poor for the state sales taxes they pay over the course of a year.
About two-thirds of those have no taxable income after deductions and get a check. Seniors can get $52 a year; non-seniors can get $26.
“In its current form, it offsets a small portion of the sales tax liability for low-income Georgians,” Floyd said.
However, during legislative debate, Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), the bill’s sponsored, called it, “In its basic form, redistribution of wealth.”
Legislation passed during the waning minutes of the 2010 session eliminates the checks for Georgians who have no taxable income. If signed by Perdue, the legislation would save the state, and cost those receiving the checks, about $22 million a year.
Perdue does not say whether he will sign or veto legislation in advance.
After the bill passed last month, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), said, “I think it’’s a very fair piece of legislation. As we move forward with what we’re having to do on the budget in this state, we’ve had to look at all kinds of things that we had to just say no to.”
A supporter of the bill, Rep. James Mills (R-Gainesville) said during debate, “If you don’t pay taxes, why should you be getting a refund back?”
Floyd said the state allows corporations in Georgia to get similar refundable tax credits when they owe no corporate income taxes. She also noted that the legislature, during the 2010 session, passed a bill to eliminate retirement income taxes on middle-income and wealthy seniors. That proposal, which Perdue has pushed for years, would save those seniors and cost the state $150 million a year.
Herbert Wester, 66, a retired concrete worker who attended the press conference, said the $52 a year he receives from the tax credit helps him pay doctor bills and utilities.
“It helps. I can’t understand why you want to cut it out,” Wester said. “We’re on a fixed income man. For some people it may not be a lot. But for some people, it is a lot.”
Another recipient at the press conference, Myrtis Robinson, 57, said, “People don’t understand that every little bit helps.”