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Lawmaker sees little chance for state spending cap

Friday, Jan. 20, 2012 1:34 PM
Last updated 7:17 PM
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ATLANTA — Legislation to cap state spending championed by conservative activists will stall in the House, a powerful House committee chairman predicted Friday.

Senate Republicans included the spending limit earlier in the week when they unveiled their legislative agenda. Passing it has been a goal of Senate Republican Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock.

But House Appropriation Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told a social-services conference he sees little likelihood of passage in his chamber.

“I’m not exactly sure what appetite for that there will be on the House side,” he said. “... It sounds good in theory, but it’s really hard to make work.”

Speaking to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank, England said Colorado’s experience with a similar law known as the Taxpayers Bill of Rights was a failure that led to public calls for repeal.

Rogers’ bill would limit state spending growth to the inflation rate plus the percentage change in population growth. If more is collected in taxes than is needed for that level of funding, the surplus would be banked for emergencies or refunded.

Critics say spending caps restrict the ability to make long-term investments and catch up with needs that have not received adequate funding in prior years. They also particularly hobble government during recessions when tax collections fall and demand for social services rise. Also, health costs – a major spending area for state government – is generally growing twice the overall inflation rate.

“I think you have to be more pragmatic,” England said.

Rogers, who wasn’t present at the conference, remains optimistic.

“We have a great working relationship with the House and especially Appropriations Chairman England,” he said when asked to respond to England’s comments. “I look forward to working with leadership and the chairman on this important issue.”

England also predicted that the legislature would not take any significant steps evaluating tax loopholes this year. Gauging their effectiveness is difficult without more data from retailers, he said, but getting the details from them may be too onerous for small merchants.

A.D. Frazier, chairman of the state’s tax reform task force, said such analysis is vital and overdue. “We’ve got to follow up on whether they really do work,” he said.


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