Gov. Sonny Perdue is doing the right thing -- but at the absolute worst time and not in any good way.
Perdue says the state's program of subsidizing local property taxes with grants of $428 million has only fattened local governments, and hasn't provided the tax relief it's supposed to.
He's right. It's a silly scheme, and only masks the true cost of local government by having the state come in and play Santa Claus with -- guess what! -- money provided by the very same taxpayers.
It's a pyramid scheme and ought to stop.
But just not right now, as he would like. The state is facing a $1.6 billion shortfall, and Perdue has frozen the $428 million that is supposed to go to local governments for property tax relief.
For one thing, local governments are deep into their budgeting processes. Changing the rules of the game now would throw counties and cities across the state into turmoil.
For another thing, it's an election year -- and while Perdue is serving his last term, state legislators are up for re-election. And they have heard from local government officials who are panicked over the possibility that that $428 million won't be coming.
We agree with Perdue that the shell game has to stop. But local governments and taxpayers need more notice than this.
Ultimately, the state may need to reduce the $428 million to a lower amount, leaving local governments to either cut their budgets or raise more taxes. The pain may need to be spread around.
But the state can't simply pull the rug out from under local governments without more notice.
End the tax subsidy down the road. But at least phase it out.