Originally created 10/24/98

Millner TV ad suggests Barnes would raise taxes



ATLANTA -- In a new ad that purports to contrast his stands with those of Democratic gubernatorial rival Roy Barnes, Republican Guy Millner uses wordplay to suggest that Mr. Barnes is proposing a tax increase.

Mr. Barnes, who is actually proposing a tax cut, branded the ad deceptive and called it sleight of hand. Gregg Kenyon, a Millner spokesman, insisted the ad was factual.

"We're just laying out the proposals of the two candidates," he said.

The ad leads up to the tax issue with an announcer first declaring that Mr. Millner has a detailed plan for reducing class sizes in Georgia while Mr. Barnes doesn't, and that Mr. Millner wants to strengthen teacher certification standards while Mr. Barnes wants to weaken them.

Then the announcer says, "Millner will eliminate the tag tax and cut property taxes by 20 percent. Barnes will increase property tax exemptions." The announcer emphasizes the word "increase."

The ad does not mention that Mr. Barnes' proposal to increase the homestead exemption from $2,000 to $20,000 would allow homeowners to shield more of the value of their homes from taxes.

Georgia State University communications professor Doug Barthlow said a typical TV viewer "could very easily miss that connection there ... In connection with the rest of the ad, it leads you to believe that's not going to be good for you or for a property owner."

He added, "Most TV viewers don't pay a great deal of attention, and things are missed ... In extreme cases, a viewer might say, `I don't want my property tax exemption to be increased."'

Mr. Barnes said, "Millner knows I have the best plan for cutting property taxes on homeowners, and he simply can't stand it. He's trying to use deception and sleight of hand to hide the weaknesses in his own plan, and it won't work."