Archive for January, 2011

Putting the brakes on junkets

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● State Republicans occupy all the big offices and control both the House and the Senate. And what does it get us? Probably Sunday liquor sales. And a House Speaker in David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, whose overwhelming appeal was that he possessed that common-sense grounding that has been a hallmark of the self-reliant, small-government fiscal conservatives. And what happens? He lets lobbyists promoting high-speed rail spend $17,000 sending him, his family, his chief of staff and his wife, to Germany and the Netherlands over Thanksgiving week to look at high-speed rail. In Washington, House Republicans have targeted for elimination or major cuts Amtrak subsidies, and intercity and high-speed rail. It’s a high-cost, subsidy-sucking pipe dream with no Thanksgiving-week urgency whatsoever. Free, unsolicited advice to the speaker. Pay back the money and never let lobbyists take you out of the state of Georgia. If a mass-transit …

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Bait-and-switch taxes bite back

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Poor Haiti. An earthquake. Cholera. And now the plague of Baby Doc.

● The GOP majority in the Legislature should learn from the mistakes of the Democrats who ran Georgia. One lesson is never create dedicated taxes or fees and enshrine them in the state constitution. The other is not to levy “fees,” aka taxes, and promise, or appear to promise, the proceeds to a specific use. The result is that special interests consider them “mine” and demand “their” money, no matter the fiscal condition of the state. At issue now are taxes collected as fees on waste disposal of new tires that eventually will get into the waste-disposal stream. As former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ben Harbin, R-Evans, told the AJC all revenues that come into the general fund are spent for higher priorities — “education and health care and things like that.” The option for legislators is to shuffle available money — or to cut higher-priority …

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No free rides in tax reform effort

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Tax code revision needs a father — an advocate with passion explaining what we’re trying to achieve — beyond, of course, the buzz words. Gov. Nathan Deal, the only elected official who qualifies, may or may not want to make this his issue. But if Republicans intend to create and give philosophical grounding to the vision Deal expressed in his State of the State — “We are now entering an era of smaller government and personal responsibility” — the tax code is a primary instrument.

● Deal should pick and choose from, but not on a dare take intact, the suggestions of the 11-member Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness. No change should be called “reform” until it’s done. Then taxpayers can judge whether the changes proposed best serve those who pay — or those who spend. The spenders will find the proposals most attractive.

● An expansion of the sales tax to services, one of its recommendations, is a Pandora’s box with …

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Three cheers for reducing costs

Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:

● Atlanta City Council starts the new year right, declining (for now at least) to rename two downtown streets — Cone and Harris — for architect John Portman and broadcaster Xernona Clayton. Legislators are as guilty as any other politicians in tacking new names on old roadways, but state law should require government to compensate those who incur expense because road names are changed, businesses especially. An established address is a business asset.

● I can never be a true Georgian until I get more caught up in where high school football players intend to perform in college. But as a starter, I note that the state’s highest-ranked recruit, Carver-Columbus High running back Isaiah Crowell, has an attitude that all of us should embrace when pursuing sports, a new job, a family, a profession or most anything else worthwhile in life. He’s not sure where he’ll play, but “I feel like I’ll be a difference-maker wherever I go.”

● …

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