Holt aims to amend state con­sti­tu­tion

Res­o­lu­tion to ad­dress state sur­pluses

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

State Rep. Doug Holt ( RCov­ing­ton) has joined with six other rep­re­sen­ta­tives to co- spon­sor leg­is­la­tion to mod­ify the Ge­or­gia Con­sti­tu­tion with an amend­ment which would spec­ify the uses bud­get sur­pluses can be put to.

House Res­o­lu­tion 1216, the Tax­payer Di­vided Act, would set con­di­tions on how ex­cess state rev­enues can be spent.

Ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease on the res­o­lu­tion, in years of bud­get sur­plus, ex­cess rev­enue would be spent firstly on ed­u­ca­tion to ac­count for any in­creases in stu­dent en­roll­ment in lo­cal sys­tems.

Af­ter ed­u­ca­tion short­falls have been ad­dressed the sur­plus would be used to bring the state Rev­enue Short­fall Re­serve to 8 per­cent of the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year’s spend­ing lev­els.

When both those items have been met, any ex­tra sur­plus would be re­turned to the tax­payer with an in­crease in the per­sonal in­come tax ex­emp­tions for all Ge­or­gians.

Be­cause it is an amend­ment to the Con­sti­tu­tion, HR 1216 re­quires a two thirds ma­jor­ity in both the Ge­or­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Ge­or­gia Se­nate be­fore it goes to Ge­or­gia vot­ers in a ref­er­en­dum. Holt said the spon­sors of the res­o­lu­tion are hop­ing it can be put on the bal­lot this Novem­ber.

“I very much agree that it’s sound fis­cal pol­icy and that we’d very much like to see it put be­fore the vot­ers,” Holt said of the res­o­lu­tion. “Af­ter we had such a rough dis­cus­sion over what to do with the sur­plus rev­enues last year, it just fi­nally struck me that the busi­ness as usual of sim­ply tak­ing the sur­plus rev­enues and spend­ing them with­out any real pri­or­i­ti­za­tion wasn’t good com­mon sense.”

Last year leg­is­la­tures de­bated call­ing for a spe­cial ses­sion to over­ride Gov. Sonny Per­due’s veto of a $142 mil­lion prop­erty tax re­bate. By ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion the $142 mil­lion was placed in the state re­serve.

Ac­cord­ing to a July 2007 Ge­or­gia Bud­get and Pol­icy In­sti­tute re­port on FY 2007’s year end rev­enue, the state closed out the fis­cal year with a $550 mil­lion sur­plus in­clud­ing the $142 mil­lion. Ap­prox­i­mately $180 mil­lion of the sur­plus was al­lo­cated to ad­dress ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing short­falls.

HR 1216 is spon­sored by Tom Graves (R-Ranger) and is cur­rently in the House’s Ways and Means Com­mit­tee.

“It re­ally sur­prises me how of­ten the con­stituent calls aren’t from folks who need gov­ern­men­tal help to solve a prob­lem,” Holt said of his rea­son­ing in re­turn­ing ex­cess sur­pluses. “Of­ten times they’ve gone to a gov­ern­ment agency to get some­thing done and it’s been mis­han­dled or dropped. The at­ti­tude of bu­reau­crats in­volved is atro­cious. I don’t think Ge­or­gian tax pay­ers need that.”

HB 956

Af­ter the first hear­ing of House Bill 956 two weeks ago, Holt is op­ti­mistic the is­sue it seeks to ad­dress — strength­en­ing the va­lid­ity of county com­mis­sion and city coun­cil re­zon­ing de­ci­sions in the eyes of the court — can be dealt with in an­other way.

“The first hear­ing re­ally brought in a lot of folks,” Holt said. “It seems to have gen­er­ated a bit of le­gal ruckus and may have opened up an­other av­enue of solv­ing the prob­lem.”

Holt said he may have the op­por­tu­nity to have le­gal prece­dent — which he was orig­i­nally seek­ing to have cod­i­fied in the Of­fi­cial Code of Ge­or­gia An­no­tated — in­serted into a con­tin­u­ing ju­di­cial ed­u­ca­tion class for all of the state’s su­pe­rior court judges. The le­gal prece­dent Holt wants in­serted backs up the re­zon­ing de­ci­sions of lo­cal gov­ern­ments in the event they are sued by a landowner.

“Hav­ing more than one route to solve the is­sue is great as far as I’m con­cerned, Holt said. “There’s no sense on putting an­other law on the books if we can get it re­solved in an­other way.”

Too cute: The 2008 Lit­tle Mr. & Miss. New­ton County Pageant


Robby Byrd/The Cov­ing­ton News

Res­i­den­tial Award: Cov­ing­ton Tree Board mem­ber Mar­shall Ginn presents Randy Vin­son of Clark’s Grove with the Res­i­den­tial Tree Stew­ard Award dur­ing the an­nual Ar­bor Day pro­gram on Fri­day.

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