Future governor’s fight club: Porter vs. Graham, Barnes vs. Poythress, and Oxendine vs. Norwood

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.

Said Barnes:

“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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8 comments Add your comment

Dubose Porter makes no sense

September 25th, 2009
5:04 pm

I am really really confused right now. Porter, a democrat, thinks taxes should be collected at the local level and kept there without the state meddling. Democrats, however, believe that state taxes should be collected and sent to the federal government and then redistributed how they think it should be redistributed among the states.

Which model does he really support because they seem to completely contrast each other?

Da Bears

September 25th, 2009
5:23 pm

My observations:

He clearly, like Obama, doesn’t understand what a tax is. Look at the following quotations:

“That money is just falling through the cracks. We paid it, but are seeing no benefit.”
“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.”

He argues we are already paying the tax, but then says it isn’t being collected. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the tax isn’t collected, the tax wasn’t paid. This also means that if you are to force people to pay, you are effectively INCREASING the tax rate because you are forcing people to pay more than they were before. That is the simple definition of a tax, but I guess Porter isn’t big on the dictionary.

Also, he isn’t much of a speaker/writer. Look at how he opened the statement…

“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.”

…and then look at how he concluded….

“In the end, Mr. Graham isn’t standing up for Georgia taxpayers, he’s protecting his turf – the Georgia Department of Revenue.”

If I had to vote today, I’d like Ox for the Repubs and Barnes for the Dems. That’d be a good race

DuBose Works for Me!

September 25th, 2009
5:33 pm

Clearly all of you were the product of a horrible Republican education system. The reason he wants GA taxes collected locally is because Georgian leadership all went to Georgia schools which means they are all stupid because Republicans ran the schools here. DC is different because Obama went to Harvard and is the greatest president since FDR! Obama does know better than us how we should spend our money because Obama has a brain and a heart that is bigger than yours!

Oxendine for Private Citizen

September 25th, 2009
5:35 pm

a highway through the best neighborhoods in the City of Atlanta? Oxendine and every other Republican candidate for Governor want to destroy the City of Atlanta for the sake of suburbanites — one way or another. Handel and Johnson want to help a future Milton County steal water infrastructure that the City of Atlanta built and paid for and Oxendine wants to drive a stake through the heart of Atlanta.

It’s time for Roy to take back the Governor’s Mansion.

ATL by Way of TX

September 26th, 2009
12:01 am

@ Oxendine for Private Citizen I agree, let’s get Barnes back in the govenor’s mansion! And the avoidance tactic by Norwood is really getting old. Woman up! Say what you mean, and mean what you say! Otherwise, keep quiet.

Aaron Burr V. Mexico

September 26th, 2009
1:21 am

I think that because of all the crap the rural counties in GA have given Atlanta due to failure to build adequate water infrastructure, MARTA and public transportation I think the federal government should ensure that state revenue is local only.

Let rural areas pay for their own projects.


September 27th, 2009
8:05 am

This issue has brought more than the usual dumb mouth breathers than usual. There is more ignorance about this subject than most…and that is saying something. Some politicians like Porter are fanning the flames of that ignorance in a power play that makes no sense except for anyone except for a few local politicians.
Right now, Georgia sales tax is remitted to the state which also has the responsibility for compliance, audits and remitting the money to the cities counties. Does anyone really believe that each city and country in Georgia can do a better job? Local politicans if they had control of sales tax, could cut more deals, make more abatements, help their friends punish their enemies. One thing for sure, revenue would not go up.
Porter is a demagogue.

woodshed guy

February 10th, 2010
8:17 pm

None will offer to debate important issues. Smoke and mirrors and damned lies. How did we get to this point? Ethics, morals, are now greed and avarice. I have lost faith in those I was taught to respect and look up to as a role model.