We are nearing the end of the 2011 legislative session, and one of the long-awaited issues is beginning to take center stage: reforms to Georgia's tax structure. We established a tax council to review our tax code during the last legislative session and we are now delving deeper into their recommendations.
State leaders specifically designed the council to be independent and not include any member of the General Assembly. Rather we tasked private citizens with the beginning steps of this vital process. This way, we could ensure that the reform efforts were not muddled with politics.
We also required their recommendations to be introduced as legislation without any changes so that we could vet their proposals in the same way we analyze other bills.
A bill was introduced recently in the House of Representatives. This does not mean we will keep any or all of their proposals. There are a wide variety of ideas presented in this bill that we will consider. The lawmakers' goal was to look at the tax structure and find areas that lacked stability and fairness, so with every proposed cut, there is also the potential for a tax hike. Some of them are controversial.
The tax rate on the income tax is lowered from 6 percent to 4 percent, but a sales tax on currently non-taxed services is established. We must be very careful in how we proceed with this idea. A service that we all use every day is a dangerous place to impose a tax. I am adamant that services such as automotive repair, veterinary medicine or barber and hair salon services should not be taxed.
Food not currently taxed also would be taxed under their plan, which is preposterous. We cannot tax the very thing we depend on to live. Food is a necessity and we, as lawmakers, must understand that.
The council recommends eliminating income tax cuts for seniors that were passed in 2003 and 2010. But we need to focus on our priorities. Placing an extra burden on one of our more vulnerable populations will have serious implications that we must consider.
These are only some of the biggest proposals in the legislation. I will continue to monitor the changes as the bill goes through the legislative process. My colleagues and I will work to make sure the end result is truly a fair revision of the tax code.
State Sen. Hardie Davis
(The writer has represented Senate District 22 in the Georgia General Assembly since 2010, and House District 122 from 2006 to 2009.)