Ga. lawmakers propose replacing income tax with sales tax increase

ATLANTA — A handful of junior Republican legislators announced Wednesday that they will introduce legislation to replace the state’s income tax with an increase in the sales tax, including a broadening in the transactions subject to the tax.

They said taxing groceries could become part of their strategy, but they said the specifics – such as how high the sales tax would rise – would all be determined between now and when the General Assembly convenes again in January. Today is the final day of the 2013 session.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re introducing this on Day 40,” said principle sponsor Rep. Tom Kirby, R-Loganville. “… We start the discussion with the what and then bring the numbers in.”

Kirby is just completing his first, complete legislative session, and he was joined by Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan, who is the newest legislator after having won a special election this month. But Kirby said one-tenth of the House of Representatives are co-sponsoring his bill, including some in leadership positions.

He said he also has the blessings of Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer who introduced twin constitutional amendments last month to cap the income tax and to require that any increases in the sales tax go toward eliminating the income tax.

Other Georgia leaders have tried to get rid of the income tax, all arguing it would attract more employers. But none have figured out a political way to make the transition without some Georgians getting stuck with higher taxes.

Asked why their new initiative could succeed when others with greater stature failed, Kirby said timing is in their favor.

“The public is really ready for a serious tax transformation, not only at the state level but at the federal level,” he said, pointing to the support for GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain when he announced a similar plan as well as several Republicans who won election to Congress on platforms to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.

“It’s tough to run in a Republican primary and not be for it,” added co-sponsor Rep. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville.

Alan Essig, the executive director of the think tank Georgia Budget & Policy Foundation, says the transition could be jarring for individuals and the economy.

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