Another day, another Republican governor making a bold proposal on an issue Georgia lawmakers have been wrestling with. From the Times-Picayune in New Orleans:
Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to eliminate Louisiana’s income and corporate taxes and pay for those cuts with increased sales taxes, the governor’s office confirmed Thursday. The governor’s office has not yet provided the details of the plan.
“The bottom line is that for too long, Louisiana’s workers and small businesses have suffered from having a state tax structure that is too complex and that holds back economic prosperity,” Jindal said in a statement released by his office. “It’s time to change that so people can keep more of their own money and foster an environment where businesses want to invest and create good-paying jobs.”
Jindal said the plan would be revenue-neutral and that the goal would be to keep sales taxes “as low and flat as possible.”
Another Louisiana newspaper, the Monroe News-Star, reports the state’s sales tax could rise as high as 7 percent from its current level of 4 percent. Louisiana has three income-tax brackets, with married couples paying 2 percent on income up to $25,000, 4 percent between $25,000 and $100,000, and 6 percent on income above that.
Georgia — where couples pay 6 percent on any income above just $10,000 — has taken tentative steps down this road before, although never to the point of eliminating the income tax completely. Former Speaker Glenn Richardson in 2007 proposed repealing all ad valorem taxes and broadening the sales tax to cover goods and services (the latter are not taxed today) at the 4 percent rate — his so-called GREAT Plan. But that only included lowering the top income-tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent, not zero. More recently, a commission appointed in 2010 to study comprehensive tax reform came back with a plan to lower the income-tax rate to no higher than 4 percent and as low as 3 percent, which probably would be low enough to boost Georgia’s competitiveness while keeping our tax base diversified (income, sales, property, etc.).
As you may recall, the latter plan was stalled in the Legislature in 2011 and last year resulted in a tax bill that was advertised as “comprehensive” but in fact merely tweaked some corporate tax breaks and granted a number of long-time wishes of certain industries (e.g., auto dealers). I’ve heard no one suggest that tax reform will come anywhere near this year’s legislative session agenda.
Meanwhile, Louisiana is pressing forward in the direction taken by Florida, Tennessee and Texas — the kind of states with which Georgia competes for jobs and workers. In North Carolina, another of our peer states, new Gov. Pat McCrory has also pledged to pursue tax changes that include lower income-tax rates for individuals and businesses.
All of which would seem to leave Georgia falling behind.
– By Kyle Wingfield