We’ve got an healthy Internet debate brewing between DuBose Porter, the Democratic candidate for governor, and state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham.
Graham has taken exception to Porter’s call for local control of sales tax collection, saying it would lead to an avalanche of audits and paperwork for businesses. He made his points in a few paragraphs we posted on Thursday.
You can read Porter’s entire response by clicking here. But this is the gist:
It is clear that, instead of standing up for Georgia’s taxpayers, Commissioner Graham is more interested in defending his turf – the Department of Revenue. The problem is, the Department of Revenue is leaving uncollected taxes on the table every year. These taxes are paid in good faith by Georgia consumers, at the point of sale, but that money is not going to reform our transportation system, or strengthen our public schools, or keep police officers, G.B.I. agents and state troopers on our streets and highways. That money is just falling through the cracks. We paid it, but are seeing no benefit.
Under HB 356, the state bureaucracy at the Department of Revenue would lose some of its power. By giving local governments the right to collect sales taxes, including the option to contract with private businesses for collections, we cut bureaucracy and streamline the process. Unfortunately for Mr. Graham, those cuts and that streamlining come at the expense of the Department of Revenue, which explains his opposition to this measure. Instead of standing up for local governments and Georgia’s taxpayers, he’s protecting his turf and toting water for the current administration. By their own estimates, they make $40 million off of local governments and millions more in interest as they hold the taxes they do collect.
HB 356 makes sense. Under our plan, local governments would no longer have to wait months for the Department of Revenue to return money collected in the counties to the counties. With HB 356, local governments would be empowered to make their own decisions, instead of remaining subject to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats in Atlanta. With HB 356, the Department of Revenue’s monopoly on tax collections is broken and we create competition. Most importantly, at a time when Georgia faces a record budget crisis, our plan puts over $1 billion into the budget without any new taxes or fees. Alabama has already done it with great success. Georgia can as well.
Mr. Graham would have you believe that under our plan, local governments would launch into a frenzy of audits on every small business within their borders. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Graham needs to understand that local governments aren’t the bad guys. Who knows your town better, someone who lives there or someone in Atlanta? Acting as a watchdog, local governments could catch tax cheats in their own communities who are trying to skirt the system.
In the end, Mr. Graham isn’t standing up for Georgia taxpayers, he’s protecting his turf – the Georgia Department of Revenue. But, perhaps he didn’t study the parts of our tax reform plan that benefits his department. It is important to remember that under HB 356, the Department of Revenue is an equal partner in tax collection. We do not seek to remove them from the process, merely to add some healthy competition.
Democrats Roy Barnes and David Poythress are engaged in a less-healthy –and quite frankly, strange — exchange. You’ll remember that on Thursday, the Gwinnett Daily Post quoted Barnes in a local speech to Rotarians, expressing his disillusionment with partisan politics.
“I’m fed up with both the Democrats and the Republicans. I’d be a Bull Moose or a Whig if they still had a party.”
In an e-mailed press release, Poythress took exception – Whigs, he explained, were the foundation of the original Republican party in the 1850s. “Roy is out of touch and for the sake of his legacy, he should leave the primary campaign to those of us who are proud to be Democrats,” he said.
So we are down to Whiggery, and it’s not even 2010.
Replied Barnes, to Dick Pettys in this morning’s InsiderAdvantage:
“Have we come to this, that we ignore the real issues and concentrate on an off-the-cuff remark explaining that we need not be Republicans or Democrats but Georgians?”
Barnes said he was “trying to pull people together” but his remarks were “turned by a cheap politician into some type of issue. And I think it’s wrong and I’m disappointed.”
Poythress just called to riposte, and said he was stung by that “cheap politician” crack. “I’m sorry that Roy did that,” Poythress said. “He’s trying to be different things to different people. When he was down in Putnam County, he didn’t say anything about Whigs to them.”
And on the GOP side, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine nudged Atlanta Councilwoman Mary Norwood this morning.
Earlier this month, he had invited her to debate his proposal for a new interstate through east Atlanta, to give northeastern commuters a clear shot at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Norwood and other mayoral candidates were incensed.
The Norwood campaign apparently has not responded. Said the Republican candidate for governor in a press release:
“Mary appears to be hiding behind the excuse of being too busy in her campaign to discuss positive solutions to issues before Georgia.”
“I continue to wait for her reply and hope Mary will demonstrate leadership by joining me in a public discussion,” said Oxendine.
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