A joint House-Senate committee today is expected to vote today on a tax overhaul package that will be reduced to writing only a few short hours before it is passed out of committee.
Included will be new sales taxes on satellite TV and cell phone service, on casual sales of automobiles and boats, and on the labor for auto repairs.
In return, lawmakers plan to reduce the state personal income tax from 6 percent to 4.5 percent or so.
House members would vote on the package first, without amendment. Sure to be lying on their desks this morning is a survey conducted by a group called the Communications Flat Tax Coalition, showing that nearly 75 percent of Georgia GOP primary voters (60 percent of all voters) endorse a shift to consumption taxes.
And 73 percent of GOP primary voters (60 percent of all voters) favor a 7 percent tax on cable TV, cell phones, land phones and such.
The essentials: MOE +/- 4 percentage points, automated calling, conducted March 25 — the day after the deal was announced. The group that commissioned the survey has a dog in the fight, and describes itself as a “coalition of telecommunications, cable, and cellular companies supporting a Communications Flat Tax and the elimination of franchise fees and state and local sales taxes on services and network investment.”
The tax package has several hurdles over the next seven working days. Content, of course, will determine much. Here’s a demand from former House member Mitch Kaye of Cobb County, e-mailed this morning:
”The tax on the casual sales of used cars hurt the poor and the working poor the most. However, if you go down that road (no pun intended) for tax neutrality, please level the playing field.
“For example, when one trades a $5,000 car to a dealer and buys a $20,000 new or used vehicle, they pay sales tax only on the difference of $15,000. If that individual sold the car privately (probably getting more money), and then bought that same $20,000 vehicle, they would pay sales tax on the full $20k. That is not fair, but a bonus to the car dealers. Leaving this loophole in, is a sellout to the auto dealers, both new and used.
“If you add a casual sales tax, please eliminate this unlevel benefit to the dealers.”
Democrats in the House and Senate have yet to declare whether they’ll take a party-line stand on the overhaul – and are unlikely to until they have something to read.
But nearly all eyes will be on Senate Republicans, who are in their first year of self-rule. GOP senators stripped Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of much of his authority over the chamber last year — in part because of the arms he twisted to obtain passage of a hospital bed tax.
The above poll is intended to calm any GOP fears.
Allow me to recycle a few quotes from House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Saturday. As it now stands, the tax overhaul legislation about to hit the Legislature contains only a small taste of the consumer-based taxes recommended by last year’s blue-ribbon tax policy panel.
But Republicans have talked for years about moving in that direction. “Now we’re about to find out if we’re serious,” he said. “Or are we going to cave in to the pressure of a few lobbyists?”
A few details emerged over the weekend about former President Jimmy Carter’s trip to Cuba that begins today. From the Associated Press:
[Carter] is scheduled to meet with Jewish leaders shortly after arriving in Cuba Monday, hinting that his visit will deal partly with the case of a U.S. contractor whose conviction has further dented relations between Havana and Washington.
An agenda released Saturday by Cuba’s Foreign Relations Ministry says Carter is to visit a Jewish institution. The imprisoned contractor, Alan Gross, had said he was trying to improve internet access for the small Jewish community when he was arrested in December 2009.
The agenda indicates Carter also is scheduled to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro as well as Roman Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega before leaving on Wednesday.
At least one Republican in Congress supports President Barack Obama’s decision to go into Libya. From this morning’s The Hill:
One of the strongest congressional backers of the president’s handling of Libya is Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a conservative Republican in his second term.
In a phone interview, Hunter, a Marine captain who served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, offered unswerving praise for Obama’s decision to intervene and suggested critics of the policy were “politicizing” the issue.
“I agree with the president. I agree with what he’s done so far on his use of force. I agree on his timing. I agree on the fact that he went in with a coalition,” Hunter said.
The state Democratic party has provided this video proof that they have supporters outside metro Atlanta – from a ceremony surrounding the opening of a party office in Augusta on Saturday:
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider