Three members of the state Senate have cleared up their state income tax problems, according to Eric Johnson, chairman of the state Senate Ethics Committee and a GOP candidate for governor.
In the House, three lawmakers have yet to pay income taxes owed, though one may satisfy requirements by the end of this week, said state Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs), chairman of that body’s ethics committee.
In a presser held Monday, Johnson said that, of the three senators, originally on a list issued by the state revenue commissioner for non-payment of state income taxes, “there are none on there now.”
“It’s sad that a little sunshine or a little exposure is sometimes necessary to get people to do the right thing,” Johnson said.
The Savannah senator was the sponsor of S.B. 168, a new state law which discloses the names of scofflaw lawmakers to the ethics commissions of their respective chambers. That report is made only after each lawmaker is notified and given 30 days to correct the situation.
Any member of the House and Senate still in arrears after 30 days is subject to investigation by his or her colleagues.
Earlier this month, my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin reported that, while House and Senate ethics committees have not disclosed any names, two House members are having their wages garnished for failing to pay taxes: state Reps. Al Williams (D-Midway) and Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale).
Passage of S.B. 168 this year resulted in heated debate, as lawmakers — sometimes very privately, once or twice very publicly — protested being treated more harshly than average citizens, whose tax matters are kept private.
“I think it’s a basic concept to expect that political leaders that tell you to pay your taxes ought to be paying theirs,” Johnson said.
Johnson, one of several Republican candidates for governor, indicated he might try to strengthen the legislation next January, possibly by extending the possibility of disclosure to all local elected officials — school board members, county commissioners, mayors and such. Though Johnson admitted that the examination of the income tax reports filed by several thousand public officials might pose a manpower problem for the Department of Revenue.
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