A deserved defeat

Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson pushed his tax plan as hard as he could.

 

Thankfully, a House majority pushed back. On Wednesday, by a vote of 110-62, legislators rejected Senate Resolution 796, a proposal that seemingly has had more ugly transformations than Dr. Jekyll.

The latest proposal called for phasing out car-tag taxes; limiting property assessment increases and local-government spending growth by having them mirror the inflation rate; and imposing a $10 per-vehicle fee to help fund Georgia's ailing trauma care network.

What made the plan -- and all of its predecessors -- so flawed was the insistence that local control of local governments' and school boards' tax money would be, in many ways, thrown to the state. That's unthinkable. Imagine the state telling you how much you can spend out of your paycheck every week.

Augusta's legislative delegation, with the exception of Rep. Barbara Sims, rightly voted the plan down. We are sorry she made that decision. As a Republican, she and her party colleagues likely felt heavy pressure from fellow Republican Richardson to get his proposal pushed through.

Under the guise of attempting to make Georgians' tax burden more accommodating, Richardson turned his push into little more than a power play that has no doubt cost him credibility.

Also, the decision to throw in desperately needed trauma care funding with the rest of the legislation was a transparent ploy to earn the tax bill more votes. Such a serious issue facing Georgia's hospitals and their trauma centers shouldn't be a political plaything.

And many lawmakers probably felt forced to vote for the bill because they felt that not voting for some kind of tax reform would cost them votes in November among constituents who want to see the state's tax system changed.

Georgia needs a change in its tax system, without a doubt, but Richardson's flaw-riddled plan fell well short of the mark, and voters should realize that. His proposal would have set up the state for massive budget shortfalls and governmental funding woes.

Now that this tax bill has been shot down, there are fears that Richardson may try to exact revenge on local governments by putting his weight behind House Bill 938, which would limit municipalities' collection of franchise fees. The bill would exempt utilities from paying the fees, and that would sap millions out of cities' budgets -- in Augusta's case, $16 million a year.

It would require only 91 votes to pass, which is within reasonable reach. This piece of legislation shouldn't be approved, either. Lawmakers should dispense with the political game-playing and vote against this bill.

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