Will the ma­jor­ity last?

The Covington News - - Opinion -

The 2008 ses­sion of the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly is a lit­tle more than half over. Our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives have man­aged to ac­com­plish a few things like pas­sage of the statewide wa­ter plan, which passed both the House and Se­nate and has been signed into law by the Gov­er­nor. The Se­nate passed a ban on those an­noy­ing robo- calls from po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates. And in an ef­fort to ap­pear tough on crime, the leg­is­la­ture is tack­ling some of the con­sti­tu­tional is­sues with the sex of­fender bill af­ter the Ge­or­gia Supreme Court threw out the law last year over prop­erty rights con­cerns. The new law is very sim­i­lar to what the court threw out. It would bar con­victed sex of­fend­ers from liv­ing within 1,000 of a church or school.

But the ses­sion has not been with­out ten­sion and drama.

The State House has been dys­func­tional, and that may be an un­der­state­ment. The ses­sion started with ten­sion be­tween the House Speaker Glenn Richard­son and Gov. Sonny Per­due as the House over­rode twelve ve­toes. The Se­nate, act­ing as a cool­ing saucer, de­ferred the over­rides to com­mit­tee. This cre­ated some­what of a war of words be­tween the two bod­ies of the leg­is­la­ture and de­bate over the word­ing of the state Con­sti­tu­tion on ve­toes. One mem­ber, State Rep. Ron Forster ( R- Ring­gold), went as far as fil­ing ar­ti­cles of im­peach­ment against Lt. Gov­er­nor Casey Ca­gle for not act­ing quickly enough on the ve­toes.

Repub­li­cans run on lim­ited gov­ern­ment, less spend­ing and less reg­u­la­tion. I don’t buy into the so­cial au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism of Repub­li­cans, but I be­lieve in Jef­fer­so­nian prin­ci­ples and cap­i­tal­ism. How­ever, af­ter four years of com­plete con­trol of the leg­is­la­ture, Repub­li­cans have proved that they are as much tax- and- spend lib­er­als as their Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts. And if Repub­li­cans in the House have their way, they will pass a bill that would al­low for a one- cent statewide sales tax, the largest tax in­crease in Ge­or­gia his­tory.

The orig­i­nal bill, spon-

This Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity, like their

na­tional coun­ter­parts, have aban­doned lim­ited gov­ern­ment and

em­braced an ex­pan­sive, more in­tru­sive phi­los­o­phy

of gov­ern­ing.

sored by State Rep. Vance Smith ( R- Pine Moun­tain), would have col­lected $ 22.2 bil­lion over the course of ten years. An up­dated pro­posal brings the num­ber of years down to eight. Repub­li­cans are also push­ing a T- SPLOST pro­posal. A TSPLOST is very sim­i­lar to a SPLOST; how­ever, coun­ties would only be al­lowed to use the funds for trans­porta­tion projects. Both pro­pos­als would re­quire voter ap­proval.

State Rep. Ron Stephens ( R- Gar­den City) is push­ing a one dol­lar in­crease in the state’s cig­a­rette tax to fund new health­care ini­tia­tives. Ev­i­dence sug­gests that th­ese types of tax in­creases are re­gres­sive, most smok­ers are poor or lower mid­dle class, and sales of cig­a­rettes will de­cline, mean­ing that ex­pected rev­enues will not be met, mean­ing that new pro­grams are likely to be funded through other means.

That brings us to the Glenn Richard­son. Richard­son has spent much of his po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal since the end of the 2007 ses­sion. His agenda has been met with skep­ti­cism, hos­til­ity and de­feat at vir­tu­ally ev­ery turn.

Richard­son’s tax plan, the so- called “ GREAT plan” ( known as the Glen­nTax in the Ge­or­gia bl­o­go­sphere), did not re­ceive any sup­port from lo­cal gov­ern­ments. Gov. Per­due and mem­bers of the Se­nate were cool to the pro­posal. Sup­port among his fel­low Repub­li­cans in the House was weak. The pro­posal seemed to change ev­ery week as the skep­ti­cism mounted.

Last week the Speaker pitched the latest ver­sion of the plan, now called the “ Prop­erty Tax Re­form ini­tia­tive.” The new ver­sion would phase out the car ad val­orem tax and the school por­tion of the prop­erty tax. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments and school boards would rely on the state for fund­ing for schools and sub­si­dies to re­place lost rev­enue for the car tax.

Un­der the pro­posal the state would tax 174 new ser­vices, ev­ery­thing from con­struc­tion con­trac­tors, movie tick­ets, taxis, limos, record­ing stu­dios, cable, cell phones, var­i­ous bank­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, le­gal ser­vices, tax prepa­ra­tion ser­vices, rental ser­vices ( video, elec­tronic, etc.), trash ser­vice, var­i­ous real es­tate and prop­erty ser­vices, sports event tick­ets, his­tor­i­cal sites, mu­se­ums, the zoo, golf cour­ses, car washes, bar­ber shops, beauty sa­lons, park­ing lots and garages and the sales tax ex­emp­tion on gro­ceries would be lifted as well.

In 2003, Stephen Moore, then pres­i­dent of the Club for Growth, wrote an ar­ti­cle in the Na­tional Re­view con­demn­ing a tax in­crease pro­posal by Gov. Sonny Per­due. He called Repub­li­cans the new “ pro- tax party” in Ge­or­gia and “ fis­cal frauds.” This was be­fore the Repub­li­can takeover of the Ge­or­gia Gen­eral As­sem­bly, but those words were prophetic.

This Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity, like their na­tional coun­ter­parts, have aban­doned lim­ited gov­ern­ment and em­braced an ex­pan­sive, more in­tru­sive phi­los­o­phy of gov­ern­ing. They don’t cut spend­ing and they have done noth­ing to de­crease the tax bur­den of Ge­or­gians; in fact they want to in­crease the tax bur­den in or­der to fund their per­sonal pork projects in their dis­tricts. They don’t work within the bud­get they al­ready have and that bud­get has in­creased by a bil­lion dol­lars each year that Repub­li­cans have been in con­trol of the leg­is­la­ture, in ad­di­tion to sev­eral bil­lion dol­lars in bonds over the same amount of time.

Ma­jori­ties don’t last for­ever, es­pe­cially in pol­i­tics. If some­thing doesn’t change inside the Ge­or­gia House, which is the source of so much con­tention, the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity will come to an end sooner than any­one ex­pected and at this point, I’m not so sure that is a prospect that shouldn’t be wel­comed.

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