Originally created 11/04/02

Ga. Amendments



They don't get much attention. They're not flashy or overly controversial. And no one's face comes with them.

But the potpourri of constitutional amendments and referenda on the Georgia ballot Tuesday demands your careful consideration.

Thus, our recommendations on the six constitutional amendments and five statewide referenda:

Amendment 1 allows the legislature to ban tax defaulters from holding public office. Someone who's not paying his or her own taxes should not be making tax policy for others. Vote Yes.

Amendment 2 allows separate tax rates for "qualified low-income building projects." More simply, it would rescue a valuable tax credit for such projects that the General Assembly has expressly granted, but which some local tax assessors have thwarted. Vote Yes.

Amendment 3 allows local governments to attach a higher millage rate to blighted property or to dwellings in which no one is living. It makes sense to boost levies on property owners whose neglect imposes additional burdens on responsible taxpayers. Vote Yes.

Amendment 4 allows lower tax rates for contaminated real estate in order to encourage cleanup and redevelopment. Environmentally damaged property is already taxed at lower rates because the market value is far less than it would be if it were environmentally clean. With market forces already driving taxes down, there's no need for government intervention. Vote No.

Amendment 5 allows special tax rates for seafood processing property. This is a special-interest proposal if there ever was one. What's next? Special tax treatment for manufacturing, agriculture or retail activities? Where would it end? Vote No.

Amendment 6 allows the state to sell special license tags to fund pet sterilization programs. This would be voluntary and it's for a good cause. Vote Yes.

Referendum A increases the school tax homestead for persons age 62 and up. Expanding school tax relief to more of the state's low-income elderly is sensible and humane. Vote Yes.

Referendum B exempts taxes for spouses of deceased military personnel. This is a technical legal fix to clarify homestead exemption benefits for military widows or widowers. Vote Yes.

Referendum C exempts certain non-profit museums from taxes. Non-profit activities which serve a good public purpose should be encouraged. Vote Yes.

Referendum D exempts commercial fishing vessels from ad valorem property taxes. Another special-interest proposal. Why are fishing vessels more worthy of special tax treatment than property used in any other trade, business or profession? They aren't. Vote No.

Referendum E boosts the ad valorem exemption on tangible personal property from $500 to $7,500. When the cost of administering and collecting a tax is more than what it brings to the state treasury, as this does, it's time to hike the exemption. Vote Yes.