Gov. Roy Barnes is urging voters throughout the state to vote "yes" on Amendment 2 on the November ballot.
The amendment, if passed, would allow the state Legislature to increase the homestead property tax exemption to $50,000 by 2006.
The tax cut would amount to a $634 annual tax credit for a $160,000 home.
The reduction is part of an eight-year, $650 million property tax cut package that Mr. Barnes promised when he ran for governor in 1998.
"This will save every Georgia homeowner as much as $774.20 a year when fully implemented," Mr. Barnes said during a news conference held at Daniel Field airport Monday afternoon. "But this change in tax code requires a change to the state constitution - and it's now up to the people of Georgia to ensure that this dream of property tax relief remains a reality."
The property tax plan calls for the Legislature to raise the homestead or family farm exemption $5,000 per year for eight years. The first two cuts were made in 1998 and 1999, but the constitutional amendment is needed to continue with the tax cut plan.
The governor said he hoped the tax cut would leave families with more money to spend on food, clothing, even family vacations.
"It's just as important how we cut taxes as it is that we cut taxes," Mr. Barnes said.
He said he hoped the tax cut would serve as an incubator for growth and development, making it more affordable for people to become homeowners.
Mr. Barnes stressed that the tax cut would be in addition to any current exemption a homeowner is entitled to and, he said, it would come directly from the state so no county, city, or school would lose revenue as a result.
"Georgia's the third fastest-growing state in the nation," Mr. Barnes said. "We do have some infrastructure needs - school construction, improved education, road construction, alternatives to transportation - but as long as we keep Georgia growing, we won't have any problems in funding."
The governor's stop in Augusta was part of a seven-city tour of the state. At each stop, he implored voters to read the questions at the bottom of the ballot and vote on them, particularly Amendment 2.
Mr. Barnes said too many voters skip the questions entirely or simply vote against all the questions.
This year's election ballot contains seven requests for amendments to the state constitution. Voters will check yes or no on the questions, deciding which changes will be made.
Constitutional Amendment 1
Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide for selection of a replacement for any member of the General Assembly who has been initially convicted of a felony?
This measure would change the Georgia Constitution to allow for a special election to immediately replace any state legislator who is convicted of a felony. The replacement legislator would serve out the term or until the convicted lawmaker's sentence is served or overturned.
Constitutional Amendment 2
Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide for a homeowner's incentive adjustment for ad valorem property tax relief?
This amendment will define in the constitution the parameters of the Homeowner's Tax Relief Grants that have been funded since 1999. The tax relief grants will be limited to $18,000 of assessed value, $45,000 of fair market value, on any homesteaded property and be available only if funded by the Legislature. The amendment would allow the state Legislature to increase the homestead property tax exemption to $50,000 by 2008. The tax cut would amount to a $634 annual tax credit for a $160,000 home.
Constitutional Amendment 3
Shall the constitution be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide a program of compensation for law enforcement officers who become physically disabled, but not permanently disabled, as a result of physical injury incurred in the line of duty and caused by a willful act of violence and for firemen who become physically disabled, but not permanently disabled, as a result of physical injury while fighting a fire, which program shall entitle an injured law enforcement officer or fireman to receive monthly compensation from the state in an amount equal to such person's regular compensation for the period of time that the law enforcement officer or fireman is physically unable to perform the duties of his or her employment, not exceeding 12 months and with certain exceptions?
This measure would allow the General Assembly to create a compensation program to help police or firefighters who become physically disabled - but not permanently disabled - in the line of duty. The monthly compensation would be equal to the police or firefighter's pay and would be limited to 12 months.
Constitutional Amendment 4
Shall the constitution be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to provide by law for indemnification with respect to public school teachers, administrators and employees who are killed or permanently disabled by an act of violence in the line of duty, a nonlapsing indemnification fund for such purposes, and dedication of revenue from special and distinctive motor vehicle license plates honoring Georgia educators to such fund?
This amendment would allow the General Assembly to create an insurance program for public school teachers, administrators and other employees killed or physically disabled in an act of violence in the line of duty. Funding for the program would come from revenue generated by selling special license plates honoring state educators.
Constitutional Amendment 5
Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly may provide by law for a program of indemnification with respect to the death or permanent disability of any state highway employee who is or any time in the past was killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty?
This measure would have the state of Georgia pay to highway workers the same benefits that are extended to law enforcement officers and firefighters who are injured while on the job.
Constitutional Amendment 6
Shall the constitution be amended so as to provide that marine vessels may be classified as a separate class of property for ad valorem property tax purposes, and such class may be divided into separate subclasses for ad valorem purposes, and to authorize the General Assembly to provide by general law for the ad valorem taxation of marine vessels, including, but not limited to, providing for different rates, methods, assessment dates and taxpayer liability for such class and for each of its subclasses and need not provide for uniformity of taxation with other classes of property or between or within its subclasses?
This amendment would create a separate class of property for ad valorem property tax on boats and watercraft. It allows variations in how marine vessels are taxed to be encoded in statute by the General Assembly, as the taxation of automobiles and heavy equipment are handled; taxation treats dealer inventory differently from personally owned property. Differentiation could be made between the sizes, ages or values of the vessels, and requires titles as a proof of ownership.
Constitutional Amendment 7
Shall the constitution be amended so as to increase from five years to seven years the time for which state judges must have been admitted to the practice of law?
This measure would increase the experience requirement for State Court judges from five to seven years of practicing law. It would place State Court judges in the same category as Superior Court judges, Court of Appeals judges, and Supreme Court judges as to the minimum level of experience in law practice required before qualifying to run in an election or being appointed on an interim basis by the Governor.
Source: League of Women Voters of Georgia
Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.
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