In an interview posted Tuesday evening by Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM), House Speaker David Ralston hinted strongly that he would prefer to keep pushing on a tax overhaul – and take up when lawmakers reassemble to draw new political boundaries in August or September.
”I’m not going to put odds on whether it’s going to be in the summer or next January. Obviously we have an opportunity to – while we’re here in the summer – to deal with it. And I think it’s important enough that it would be something Georgians would expect us to deal with.”
Ralston repeated his dissatisfaction with GSU numbers, but also took a crack at Democrats, who have gleefully taken credit for tossing out the data that brought the effort to a halt:
”With all due respect, I’m not sure my friends in the Democratic party have ever seen a tax cut they’re going to be pleased with. We just have a basic disagreement with them. They believe we need to keep more money in the government coffers, because government makes better decisions than taxpayers do in how to spend it…
“I thought the interesting thing in the whole process was that members in the minority party were quick to throw stones, and I don’t ever remember them coming up with any kind of a plan that cut taxes or did anything to create jobs in this state.”
Responded House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams, also to O’Hayer:
”I wouldn’t say it’s throwing stones. I think what we’re doing is analyzing it and proving the holes in it. The responsibility of the majority party is to develop the government structure. They are the ones who set the structure. Democrats tried to be involved, and we were kept out of the process. Certainly if he would like to see a Democratic bill, we would be happy to offer one….
“The idea that you can shift from income taxes to consumption taxes assumes that consumers have choices. Often, in our state, we don’t have those choices. You have rural communities and urban communities bound by market forces that the Republicans refuse to deal with.
“What real tax reform does is expand the services that we tax. It recognizes that our income tax structure has to continue to be progressive. And it recognizes the neutrality of our property taxes. Smart tax policy looks at all three.
“What they want is government that doesn’t cost anything. That’s not good for government. It’s not good for the citizens.”
Abrams said she would postpone any reconsideration of tax overhaul until next January.
So far as we know, the Warner Robins Patriot has the first direct quote from state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, whose computer has been linked to a series of angry e-mails, allegedly sent by a GOP volunteer named Beth Merkleson, aimed at Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and his allies:
Staton, commented, “This is perhaps one of the craziest and silliest things I have experienced in my tenure in the Senate. I am remaining focused on representing my district and not being distracted by those who are more interested in power than what really matters to Georgians.”
It’s worth noting that Staton is owner of the Patriot, along with a cable TV and radio station in Warner Robins. On Tuesday, Staton yielded his duties as majority whip for the remainder of the session.
Meanwhile, Staton’s hometown newspaper, the Macon Telegraph, this morning includes reaction from state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who was the target of some of Merkleson’s barbs:
“I find it egregious to be called a turncoat,” Unterman commented Wednesday afternoon at the Capitol. She noted she’s been a Republican for her entire political career, more than two decades.
“The GOP caucus needs to identify who those (e-mails) came from,” she said, and apply some kind of sanctions if it’s an insider.
On the Adams report, she said she’s waiting for a forensic IT audit.
“Innocent until proven guilty,” she said.
We reported earlier that Merkleson doesn’t show up on Georgia voter rolls – an oddity for someone claiming to be a GOP volunteer. The Telegraph went a step further:
As for Merkleson, the Georgia Department of Driver Services finds no drivers license on record under the name Beth Merkleson or Elizabeth Merkleson.
The Merkleson e-mails have been coming from firstname.lastname@example.org for the past few days. They appear to be written by someone with public, but unusually detailed, knowledge of business under the gold dome, such as joint committee appointments, Cagle’s position on a hospital tax bill from last year, and the legal boilerplate it takes to file a Senate resolution.
The Merkleson author claims to be from a place “not far” from the state Capitol and to have volunteered for both her senator and her representative this year.
Walter Jones of the Morris News Service took note of evidence that the leadership dispute in the Senate has perhaps made the other chamber more aggressive:
The House killed a Senate bill Tuesday that would have allowed the harvesting of logs that have been submerged for decades in four Georgia rivers.
Most of the logs, called deadheads, were originally cut down a century or so ago and floated downstream to mills in times before railroads and trucks.
Senate Bill 218 by Sen. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, would have instructed the Department of Natural Resources to bid out sections of the Oconee, Flint, Altamaha and Ocmulgee rivers to speculators who wanted to take their chances digging the logs from the sediment on the bottom and trying to sell them.
There was only one vote against it on March 16 when it was considered by the Senate where Williams is the highest-ranking member.
A note from Republican Mike Huckabee sent to supporters indicates the ’08 presidential candidate has been taking some heat for his opposition to a shutdown of the federal government – and perhaps cares about the criticism more than someone who’s not running in ‘12 ought to:
My website, Facebook page, and blogs lit up with angry people who said I supported a retreat. That’s not true. I just supported taking “yes” for an answer. The Democrats originally wanted NO cuts and then finally put $6 billion on the table as their final offer.
The Speaker first put up $32 billion, later moved that up to $61 billion, but ended up with $38.5 billion. To get more than you first asked for, and over six times more than your opponent’s final offer – sorry, but that seems a victory to me. But not to those who wanted all or nothing.
Here’s a dose of reality: The Democrats control 2 of the 3 moving parts of this deal—the Senate and the White House; the Republicans only control the House. They were never going to get everything they wanted, and this temporary funding bill wasn’t really about issues like Planned Parenthood. Cutting $38.5 billion is a victory for the Republicans.
AJC’s Politifact today looks at U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s statement that the federal government is borrowing “almost $60 billion per week.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider