GEORGIA PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS 2014

Some people may have noticed a few amendments referendums on the ballot. Not much publicity was given to any of these, so I wanted to make sure people understand what they mean.

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Why do we have 6 tax brackets that start at $1,000 for the lowest bracket and stop at $7,000 as the highest? Does it seem a bit unfair that Chancellor Hank Huckaby of the University System of Georgia that makes well over $500,000 a year is taxed the same rate as some poor student working in the cafeteria part-time and makes $7,000 a year? 

Take a look at two other states.

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Both of those states seem to be a lot fairer to the lower income groups. Yes it is true their highest rates are higher than our highest rate, but they also spend a lot more on their roads, schools, and other infrastructure than Georgia. Up to around $80,000 for a single individual their rates are near ours. But unlike in Georgia where the much wealthier pay the same 6% rate as a student barely scraping by with a yearly income of $8,000, those and many other states offer higher brackets for those making above $200,000. Seven states have no state income tax at all.

This amendment seems to prohibit raising the tax rate for wealthier Georgian’s to a higher rate. But the wording is quite vague, so I think  many people will not understand what it is asking. Personally I think anyone making less than $10,000 should be exempt from any state income tax and even people making up to $30,000 should have lower rates than those making $200,000. If you want to have six brackets,  stretch them out further with an idea of protecting the middle class and the vulnerable poor. If people realized they were voting for a tax break for the wealthy I wonder how they would feel.

The Georgia tax system is regressive, requiring low-income families to pay more of their income in state and local taxes than upper-income families must pay. An ITEP analysis of non- elderly and elderly Georgians shows that in 2009, that the poorest Georgia families pay an average of 11.4 percent of their income in Georgia taxes, twice as high as the 5.7 percent of income that the very best-off 1 percent of Georgians must pay. This upside-down pattern is common in state tax systems—but Georgia’s tax system is somewhat more regressive than the typical state. ITEP’s 2009 report, Who Pays, ranked Georgia as the nineteenth most regressive tax system in the nation. Among the main factors making Georgia’s tax system unusually regressive are its relatively flat state income tax structure, its reliance on sales taxes, and the lack of a substantial refundable low-income tax credit such as an Earned Income Tax Credit.

When a tax system imposes higher effective tax rates on low-income families—while allowing the best-off taxpayers to pay much lower tax rates—it is effectively redistributing income away from poor families, and toward the best-off families. Georgia is no exception to this rule:

  •  The best-off 1 percent of Georgians enjoyed 16.7 percent of statewide income in 2009—but paid 11.4 percent of the Georgia taxes on Georgia residents.
  •  The middle 20 percent of Georgians earned 12.0 percent of statewide income, but paid 14.0 percent of the Georgia taxes.
  •  The poorest 20 percent of Georgians realized just 3.2 percent of statewide income— but paid 4.3 percent of the taxes falling on Georgians.
  •  As a group, the poorest 80 percent of Georgians enjoyed 42 percent of statewide income—and paid 49 percent of the taxes falling on Georgians.

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Georgia Reckless Driving Fines for Injury Trust Fund, Amendment B

The General Assembly is authorized to provide by general law for additional penalties or fees in any case in any court in this state in which a person is adjudged guilty of an offense involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or reckless driving. The General Assembly is authorized to provide by general law for the allocation of such additional penalties or fees to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund, as provided by law, for the specified purpose of meeting any and all costs, or any portion of the costs, of providing care and rehabilitative services to citizens of the state who have survived neurotrauma with head or spinal cord injuries. Moneys appropriated for such purposes shall not lapse. The General Assembly may provide by general law for the administration of such fund by such authority as the General Assembly shall determine.

This at least appears to be a positive thing and I hope this passes.

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According to the GPBI which I included below “Georgia legislators are considering two constitutional amendments that would limit the state’s ability to adequately meet the needs of its people in the future. The proposals, Senate Resolutions 412 and 415, would create two separate tax caps in the state Constitution. One would permanently cap Georgia’s income tax rate and the other would permanently cap its sales tax rate in most circumstances. Adopting these amendments could deliver several unintended consequences.

Passing the amendments would place arbitrary limits on the tools lawmakers can use to adequately fund the people’s business. The new tax caps would place a formidable roadblock in front of future tax reform efforts and would prevent lawmakers from even considering certain options now available. The caps would hinder lawmakers’ ability to fully fund education and other public services, especially in the event of an emergency such as a natural disaster, or in response to a deep economic downturn.”

One thing is for sure, these seem to be major bills that deserved a lot more media coverage. I am afraid most voters won’t have a clue what any of these three really mean. 

 

 

 

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