In time for Santa to make sure it all gets delivered, here’s my Christmas wish list for next year’s legislative session:
– Meaningful tax reform: Soon, perhaps as soon as this week, a special panel will report its recommendations on making Georgia’s tax code more fair and efficient.
Don’t expect anything as radical as ending the income tax. But the preferred direction for reform in Georgia is similar to what’s being debated in Washington. Make taxes simpler with fewer exemptions and credits, flatter with fewer brackets, smarter with no taxes on business inputs such as energy.
And once you’ve done all that, set them as low as possible to fund the government we need, and nothing more. Which brings me to …
– Straight talk on the size of government and how we pay for it: We’ve just had an election in which Republicans won a statewide sweep and large legislative majorities by promising to cut government until it lives within its means.
But in the 2010 session, GOP leaders told us they were already cutting into the bone. They also said that a variety of fees, many of which look suspiciously like taxes unrelated to provision of a particular service, were necessary to balance the books.
Pick a story, stick to it. Don’t tell us at voting time there’s more to cut, and then tell us at cutting time there isn’t.
– Progress on school choice: There has never been a better moment to push for increasing options for parents and students (as well as teachers, who in many parts of Georgia face few, if any, employment choices). The education establishment had a lousy 2010.
There was the cheating scandal that exploded in Atlanta (and down in Dougherty County) and may lead to criminal charges for complicit teachers and administrators. There was the turmoil within the Atlanta and DeKalb County school boards, and the indictments of administrators in DeKalb.
In the meantime, school choice has broken through the ideological barrier and squarely into the public consciousness thanks to feature films such as “Waiting for ‘Superman.’”
The issue isn’t just for conservatives anymore, as parents in Compton, Calif., showed last week. How? They pulled the nation’s first “parent trigger” to mandate vast changes in a failing school. Out goes the old leadership; in comes a charter operator with a record of success in public schools.
It’s a transformative tool. It’s a tool you can imagine parents of APS students being eager to use at schools where some adults cheated kids out of educational opportunity.
Whether it’s with a parent trigger or by moving forward on more familiar measures, such as vouchers, let’s take some next steps this year.
– Good-governance measures: By all means, take another pass at zero-base budgeting and sunset reviews for state agencies. But let’s also consider changes such as moving to two-year budget cycles, which could allow for deeper examination of spending and less election-year pandering.
And if there’s any room left in the stocking, I’ll take a little seriousness: No stunts akin to pardoning dead celebrities (as Florida officials did this past week for the Doors’ Jim Morrison); no pounding the lectern railing against Washington with one hand, while the other reaches for every last federal dollar; no pointless intramural fights about things like pledges.
Act more nice than naughty, and Santa, and the rest of us, will thank you.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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