The End of Local Government
[Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson]’s proposed constitutional amendment would terminate the property tax in every county and . . . [a]state sales tax of four percent and a state income tax of four percent would generate revenues to replace the funds formerly raised through property taxes. The Legislature would decide when it adopts the state budget how much of that money would be sent to each county and city, with local governments promised at least the amount of revenues they raised during 2006 from property taxes.
Richardson’s proposal would shift all the power to make taxing and spending decisions to the Capitol - more specifically, to the five or six leaders of the Legislature’s majority party who really decide what goes into the budget. Today, that group is made up of conservative white Republicans. Ten years from now, it could be liberal black Democrats. But that handful of lawmakers will decide how much money local governments receive.
It’s no surprise that Richardson’s idea does not sit well with the organizations that represent local governments, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) and the Association of County Commissioners (ACCG). “The very idea of the legislature deciding local needs and sending money back is ludicrous,” said Jerry Griffin of ACCG. “To think that all the wisdom lies in Atlanta is a fallacy. At the end of the day, six people are going to decide who gets what.”
Richardson and his buddies complain about how burdensome property taxes are, but the legislature has cut about $1.5 billion in state funding for public education from the past four state budgets - which has forced school boards around the state to raise property taxes to make up for the lost funds. The speaker is like the arsonist who sets a building on fire, then complains when the fire department doesn’t show up on time to put it out.
Richardson’s proposal also contradicts a favorite talking point of conservatives, who for years have told us that governments should be as small and as close to the people as possible. And yet, the speaker wants to create a big pot of money in Atlanta controlled by five or six political insiders who wouldn’t be accountable to the voters in most of the communities that would depend on that money. That’s about as far from the people as you could get.
In the end, Georgians will have to decide if they want their own county commissioner or city councilman to decide how much their local government will spend and what for, or if they prefer that a small group of power brokers in Atlanta who are not accountable to them make those decisions.
And Mr. Crawford could have added their own local member of the board of education to county commissioner and city councilman with respect to deciding how much and for what tax dollars are spent.