Finally, legislators take steps in the right direction

What a difference a month makes. A 10-day month, that is.

Crossover Day at the Legislature, which this year came on March 26, was not a good one for conservatism in Georgia. Lawmakers, particularly Republicans who claim to support limited government, failed to pass some important good-governance measures and succeeded in raising taxes.

But between that 30th day of the session and today’s 40th and final one, they went some ways toward righting the ship.

Oh, the hospital tax lives on. And lawmakers made it worse, not better, by rolling it into a bill to increase the state’s user fees and eliminate its quarter-mill property tax and capital gains taxes on retirees.

Raising some fees is defensible as a move to stop subsidizing certain services by charging users the full cost of providing them. And it’s good that the original bill’s overly broad text was tightened considerably. But lawmakers can’t let fee hikes become a regular money grab.

Ironically, the bigger philosophical drag comes from the tax cuts. That’s because these cuts are not the kind of broad-based incentives that will spur real economic growth.

Most Georgia homeowners will save less than $20 per year. And a whole lot of senior citizens will have to flock to Georgia if the tax cut that they alone received is to give the economy any real boost.

The idea of cutting taxes to spur growth is discredited when it’s misapplied. That bodes ill for the future. And while any tax cut helps shrink government when it comes with, or leads to, spending reductions, we already have billions in those.

I’d have preferred that lawmakers had not tinkered with taxes this year so that the newly created tax-reform council, a good idea, had maximum flexibility to draft meaningful changes.

As I said, though, most of the recent news is positive.

Along with the tax-reform council, legislators put in place some good structures to force thriftiness upon themselves in the future. Three measures in particular will work in tandem to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent as wisely as possible.

First is the sunset review legislation, a mechanism by which lawmakers will review all state boards, commissions, committees, agencies and panels on a rolling basis to make sure they are sticking to their intended missions and not duplicating one another’s work. Some will be abolished or consolidated.

The original bill died in the House on Crossover Day, in part as a slap at the sponsor, Rep. Charlice Byrd, a Woodstock Republican who has a penchant for ruffling her colleagues’ feathers from time to time.

That was a poor reason to reject a sound bill. But Byrd, to her credit, let others take over the lead on the proposal. Other lawmakers, to their credit, decided her deference sufficed, and they passed SB 148 after Byrd’s text was added to it.

Going hand-in-hand with sunset review is Sen. David Shafer’s Zero-Base Budgeting Act (SB 1). The Duluth Republican pushed his bill through the Senate 15 months ago, only to see it gather cobwebs in the House.

They finally dusted it off last week and sent it to the governor. Now, between one-quarter and one-third of state agencies each year will start their budgets from scratch, preventing them from baking previous years’ increases into the cake.

Third is SB 206, from Sen. Greg Goggans (R-Douglas), which requires a review of existing tax exemptions and credits to determine whether they have the intended effect on the economy. Are tax breaks to boost the film industry, for example, actually boosting the film industry?

Some tax breaks may be duds, but others are no doubt working well and might merit expansion. Now we’ll know those things — and, someday, whether 2010’s new exemptions were worthwhile after all.

52 comments Add your comment

@@

April 28th, 2010
9:28 pm

I’m with you, Kyle, on the holding off. Tinker-errs be damned. Too many of those in Washington, and the hole in the pot is growing bigger with each whack.

The sunset legislation is long overdue. It’s a shame we don’t enact it at all levels of government.

SB 1? Help me out here…is that like sending ‘em back to the blackboard every year with an eraser so they can start from scratch. Hopefully they won’t be clapping ‘em just to create an impenetrable dust cloud.

Glad you’re back, Kyle. Your perspectives always give me hope.

StJ

April 28th, 2010
10:00 pm

Now if we could get the federal goverment to enact sunset provisions and zero-base budgeting, maybe we could get that ship righted…

Nope…no cold fronts predicted in the weather forecast for Hell…it was a nice thought, anyway.

Karl Marx

April 29th, 2010
4:26 am

“Raising some fees is defensible as a move to stop subsidizing certain services by charging users the full cost of providing them.” Sorry but no this is nothing more than another tax hike. Those fees will be passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices. Cutting the State portion of property tax was a good idea where it fell short is the state can revive it anytime. It was not permanently removed. This session is one of the worst on record for taxpayers. State Government got bigger, taxes are higher, and tax cut will be phased in starting 2012. I’m so glad to see Republicans follow the lower taxes less government motto. These guys are worse than Democrats. At least with Democrats they don’t lie to you about raising taxes.

Road Scholar

April 29th, 2010
7:49 am

“Legislators take steps in the right direction”
Good, they are leaving town tonight…now how much more harm can they do? Don’t tempt them…

Where is the beer and wine sales on Sunday bill?
Where is the tuition affect to colleges…oh it’s in the budget no one has details on! (Open government they criticised Obama on!?)
Where is the meaningful ethics reform promised?
Thank you for selling even more bonds…mortgaing our children’s future.

Etc. etc etc

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
8:02 am

The same old repuke mantra, Targeted Tax Cuts, just means all the money goes to the fat cats, not the average taxpayer. Talk about the government picking winners and losers. I have a better idea…lets raise the tax rate on people making over 250K per year, raise the rate to say 20% of the amount over 250K. Use that revenue to cut everyone’s property taxes.

The Udder Side!!!!!

April 29th, 2010
8:05 am

I guess this is par for the course…..The State legislators come to town, fire one of their own for not towing the party line ( even when they go against his voters), raise taxes refuse ethics reform, and Kyle give them credit for moving in the right direction…I am ashamed to say , that this has become the norm for my state…How do they do nothing but dump on the citizens of Georgia and get praise from the right????

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
8:10 am

In Georgia at least, we need to rename the “Right” as the “Wrong.” The fat cats have been getting away with paying very low tax rates for decades, they launder their profits as Capital Gains, and pay only a 15% tax rate at the Federal level, only 6% at the State level, and zero in Medicare, and Social Security. We need to capture more of the Fat Cat money to balance the Georgia Budget, and cut everyone’s property taxes.

Jack

April 29th, 2010
8:13 am

Kyle:

I can only assume you must have really taken a beating for your previously critical comments regarding the General Assembly and are now trying to get back in the good stead of this august body.

A massive tax increase, a raw political punishment (including removing a member from a committee chair) for members who do not toe the line, a body so desparate for a literal free meal that it cannot abolish this perk as part of a mostly meaningless “reform” of ethics legislation and a complete lack of courage in allowing the teacher unions to face down the majority regarding pay for production. These are just the tip of the iceberg of most likely the worst General Assembly in memory.

Kyle, if you are going to be the face of conservative thought on the editorial page, YOU MUST get over this notion that conservative thought equates to republican support. I am afraid you are falling into the same old tried trap of most republican newspaper writers. You claim to be a conservative and not a republican but your distance from support of all things republicans is about the same distance from a pregnant ant and the ground!

Morrus

April 29th, 2010
8:43 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

Road Scholar

April 29th, 2010
8:53 am

Oh yeah, where is the bill that requires the general assembly to record and determine what each tax break will and have had on the states economy and budget?

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
8:58 am

I urge a return to Zero Based Budgeting, the plan used by Jimmy Carter but perverted by the bureaucracy to nonsense. Under ZBB, each agency must build their budget from zero in terms of dollars and FTE’s each and every fiscal year, showing where cuts can be made. President Carter’s ZBB plan failed because of the transition quarter, when the Federal pecker heads changed from a FY starting on July 1 to one starting on October 1…that added work was like an additional fiscal year, so permission was granted to use the previous year’s budget as the “zero point.” That opened the door for the bureaucrats to use last years budget as zero and just justify all their desired NEW spending from then on. We should go back to the original plan of zbb, or at least set zero at 80% of last year’s budget. That way we can cut, cut, cut away all the junk in the Georgia State guv. Just approve the 80% budget, and let the cuts fall where they may. If the agency fails in its mission at 80%, then all the high mucky mucks git fired, and new mucky mucks promoted to try again next fiscal year, at another 80% zbb. As the heads roll, real leaders will emerge from the ranks.

The Snark

April 29th, 2010
9:32 am

Kyle, it’s time to review not just this recent Assembly but the last six years. The honest truth is that while certain special interests have gotten the full attention of the legislature (e.g., Georgia Power, Philip Morris, NRA) these folks have simply fallen down on the most basic function of managing state government. Resources have dwindled at every level, senior management is indifferent or incompetent, and legislative leaders spend their time toying with ideological concepts (or worse yet, toying with lobbyists) and trying to work their way into better jobs. Six years is a long time to not do anything about infrastructure, transportation, sprawl and pollution, etc.

Forget the Democrat vs. Republican, conservative vs. liberal (of which we have almost none in state government, let’s be honest about it.) State government has a job to do, and it isn’t doing it.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
9:39 am

Snark, the State has the resources at 17 billion bucks, but it is wasted by idiots on idiots. With zbb, we start eliminating the idiots and their programs.

The Snark

April 29th, 2010
9:44 am

Hey TAR AND FEATHERS PARTY:

Thanks for your contribution to public discourse. Glad to know you have all the answers. Didn’t realize it was all so simple. Maybe you should run for Governor?

PS Most of that $17 billion is spent to provide medical care for “idiots” under the Medicaid program. What do you suggest we do with all those sick idiots?

Kyle Wingfield

April 29th, 2010
9:48 am

Jack, I criticized them for not passing bills I had previously advocated. Now they’ve passed them. I’ll give credit where credit is due. I said they took “steps in the right direction,” not “everything’s swell now.”

It hasn’t been a good session overall, and I don’t think that’s what I wrote. I criticized the attempts at ethics reform early on, and I don’t think the final bill was any better; it might have even been worse. As you can read today, I didn’t think the tax cuts they passed were worthwhile.

I do think they got a few other things right: the property tax reforms are one, and the transportation bill was probably as good as we were going to get at this point. (I’m with you, Road Scholar, on the Sunday sales, but that’s not an important enough issue for me to get too riled up; the other bill you mentioned, I think, was SB 206, which is in today’s post.)

Overall, I think Republicans in this state are going to find it tougher going in this year’s campaign than they have in some time. This is an anti-incumbent year, and the Georgia GOP hasn’t given voters much of a reason to make an exception for them.

Kyle Wingfield

April 29th, 2010
9:50 am

Tar, I’m generally for targeting cuts based on the type of tax, not the type of taxpayer.

Kyle Wingfield

April 29th, 2010
9:53 am

Snark, I wasn’t here for five of those six years so it’s difficult for me to offer much of an appraisal of the entire period. But from what I’ve heard, this year isn’t the only reason that, as I said above, Republicans are going to be a tough sell to voters.

get out much?

April 29th, 2010
10:05 am

It would be interesting to hear what services/projects our fearless leaders are planning to cut/eliminate first, then have them tell us what taxes they will be cutting with the savings.

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
10:12 am

The Snark – They should be taken care of by their families, they way it worked prior to the abortion known as Medicaid. Medicaid was designed as health care for poor people, but got hijacked by old people as a nursing home benefit, aided and abetted by the crooks in the nursing home industry. I suggest we stop all new Medicaid admissions to nursing homes, and when the current free loaders die off, end all nursing home payments. Simple problem, easy solution. Your turn.

The Udder Side!!!!!

April 29th, 2010
10:48 am

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
10:12 am

Idiots like you are sooooo Funny to me…. I bet you think we should just Nuke Iran and North Korea so that we never have to deal with them again too….

The Tar and Feathers Party

April 29th, 2010
11:02 am

No udder side, we should not nuke Iran or North Korea…We should nuke the source of the problem, it is in Tele Aviv.

The Snark

April 29th, 2010
11:24 am

TAR AND FEATHERS:

One of the prerequisites for throwing your opinion into the public marketplace of ideas is that you have some minimum level of factual knowledge about the subject. Now, repeat after me:

MEDICAID is for the poor, and is funded jointly by the States and the federal government.
MEDICARE is for the elderly, and is funded entirely by the federal government.

Repeat as necessary.

DJ

April 29th, 2010
11:33 am

“The idea of cutting taxes to spur growth is discredited when it’s misapplied.”

Careful Kyle – you won’t pass the radical right’s ideological litmus test if you keep thinking like that. Remember that this is Georgia – not some thoughtful moderate state. They might take away your seat at the table if you don’t toe the party line better.

retiredds

April 29th, 2010
12:04 pm

I think it is time for Tar to run for office. He has a magnificent grasp of the facts and his management of complex problems is astute. I am sure there are a slew of voters out there just waiting for him to run and give us the solutions we have been waiting for.

Jefferson

April 29th, 2010
12:07 pm

The state may cut spending but the counties and cities will just raise property taxes. The wealthy retired group get their taxes cut while the working families pay more. A progressive income tax for over 200k incomes would be more responsible.

Hayek

April 29th, 2010
12:20 pm

Don’t hold your breath about the tax reform commission. It’s at least as likely to make matters worse than to make them better.

Hillbilly Deluxe

April 29th, 2010
1:19 pm

lawmakers can’t let fee hikes become a regular money grab

I’ve lived in Georgia all my life and all this is part of a perpetual cycle. Every now and then times get hard, so they cut back a little and raise a few taxes to take care of the short fall. Then the cycle turns around and things turn around economically. Since they raised taxes during a downturn, then the money starts to roll in. Do they set some aside for a rainy day or roll back the taxes? No, they start to spend like drunken sailors again, they see it as their mission to spend every dime they get. It’s the same old thing over and over; it never changes. It has nothing to do with which party is in power; it was that way when the Democrats were in the majority and it’s the same way when the Republicans are in charge. Whatever money they take in, they will find a way to spend it and always are looking for more.

96 SC

April 29th, 2010
1:30 pm

These Home Grown BOZO’s failed to craft an EFFECTIVE ETHICS BILL to halt misconduct, thievery, etc. purported bythe members of the CONFEDERATE MUSEUM aka the Georgia LEGISLATURE. Georgis still mainttains the dubious honor of being the state filled with having the best politicians that mooney can buy.

Hayek

April 29th, 2010
1:38 pm

The ethics bill is a low priority to me–I think there will be some way around any bill that passes. A bill might make it a bit harder to channel goodies to watercarrying legislators and it might add some sunlight, but I think even the best bill would have only modest benefit.

To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke: When legislators control buying and selling the first thing to be bought and sold will be legislators.

Peter

April 29th, 2010
1:53 pm

Hey Kyle…..How is the mantra………”Drill Baby Drill” looking today ?

Shall we pollute all the waters so there is zero seafood to eat ?

Willie

April 29th, 2010
2:08 pm

Kyle, I am conservative and I will not vote for a liberal. I would vote for a conservative democrat but there is no such thing now under Obama.

Willie

April 29th, 2010
2:11 pm

Peter

April 29th, 2010
1:53 pm

Oh Peter, that looks like a drive media remark! You know Nantucket Sound is going to look so much better now with its forest of European made wind mills.

Willie

April 29th, 2010
2:12 pm

Peter we could drill in Alaska and save the sea food.

Peter

April 29th, 2010
2:14 pm

Willie…..I think that Wind Mills are a great idea…… How about you ?

5 Miles off the coast is not something you will see from the shore.

Peter

April 29th, 2010
2:16 pm

Alaska is really a better idea……. Willie….. but going Green is going to be out best alternative.

Willie

April 29th, 2010
2:37 pm

I like American made wind mills but I dont have a problem with windmills. I prefer nuclear!

Peter

April 29th, 2010
2:59 pm

Willie……what do you do with the nuclear waste……. more stuff to pollute the environment, and ourselves ?

I think this disaster is going to be the wake up call, and more American’s will be loosing jobs and homes on the gulf coast because of this……

I was told by folks who live in the area, they can smell it at the beach already….. that is going to really hurt the Mom and Pop businesses there.

Peter

April 29th, 2010
3:15 pm

Well talking currently to a friend on Anna Maria Island……..he says they can now smell it in Tampa.

Peter

April 29th, 2010
3:48 pm

How many folks have a house or condo at the beach in the Florida Gulf ?

Do you think you will be renting it out at a premium this year ?

Peter

April 29th, 2010
4:28 pm

Anybody see the weekend weather report ? Where do you think our weather comes from ?

Heavy rain possible by the weekend, forecasters warn

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

April will end on a sunny note, but May could begin with weekend weather as nasty as Friday’s is nice.

The National Weather Service on Thursday warned that heavy rain is likely across northwest Georgia, from Douglas, Cobb and Cherokee counties northward, beginning on Sunday. Rainfall totals of 2 to 4 inches are possible by early next week, forecasters said.

WSB-TV meteorologist Karen Minton said Friday will begin sunny, with clouds moving in later in the day as highs climb into the low 80s.

Minton said there’s a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on tap for Saturday’s first day of May.

“Periods of heavy rainfall will be possible across northwest Georgia beginning Sunday,” the Weather Service warned in a statement issued Thursday morning. “This trend will continue through the day on Monday.”

Michael H. Smith

April 29th, 2010
5:42 pm

Drill Baby, Drill!

Until “Green” grows into the promised reality there are no alternatives presently.
I’ll gladly take a nuclear power plant in my back yard if that were possible.

Next…

Unless the sunset review actually cuts the size, scope and costs of government it will be meaningless eye and ear candy, Kyle.

DEWSTARPATH

April 29th, 2010
5:56 pm

- I think the term “green” is OK for alternative energy,
but I prefer “energy research”, or ER, with all due
respect to Thomas Friedman’s “energy technology” (ET).

dewstarpath

April 29th, 2010
5:58 pm

- That disastrous oil spill could also kill a lot of
the coastal algae that protects the coastline from
storms that develop in the Gulf.

Michael H. Smith

April 29th, 2010
6:04 pm

I prefer “Energy Results” and will settle for nothing less.

With respects to Friedman, we agree on the economy of oil ills. We probably disagree on how best to conquer it.

dewstarpath

April 29th, 2010
6:12 pm

- Looks like there are new opportunities for conquest
every day, a mix of both the old and the new. But “results”
are always good.

Michael H. Smith

April 29th, 2010
6:53 pm

Results are the only thing that matters.

This country is too far behind and too attached to the old to ever inanely hope for instant “Green”. The country has an electric grid that is fifty outdated patch-work max-to-capacity years old. This alone will take years to upgrade.

Solar, wind, biomass and hydrogen are still years away from being prime time energy producers.

America has in the meantime, other than oil, three prime time energy sources in abundance to fill in the energy gap: Coal, Natural Gas/Methane and Nuclear.

Now more than ever America needs an immediate clear “actionable” commitment to achieving energy independence.

It didn’t happen under Bush and the Republicans, and from all appearances it won’t happen under Obumer and the Democrats.

Spoke Too Soon

April 29th, 2010
7:37 pm

What about the $10 trauma tax hike on vehicles? That’s not my idea of the RIGHT COURSE.

Michael H. Smith

April 29th, 2010
8:17 pm

Quick, Comrade Cynthia! Kill this “Equal Justice” story before too many people hoodwinked by leftwing “Social Justice” read the truth about Illegal Aliens taking jobs AMERICANS WILL DO and DEPRESSING THE LIVING WAGES they should earn. I mean, somebody might mistake the AJC for a real newspaper practicing genuine journalism – for a change!

Airport construction hiring draws fire

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/airport-construction-hiring-draws-506463.html

Chris Broe

April 30th, 2010
7:10 am

“Finally, legislators take steps in the right direction”

Yeah, one step forward, and two steps backwards. That would still be okay if they’d stop stepping on their own ding-dongs.

just kidding……

No More Progressives!

April 30th, 2010
7:58 am

How much electricity does one wind turbine make in a day?

For your reading pleasure.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_electricity_does_one_wind_turbine_make_in_a_day