Lawmaker proposes tax plan

Associated Press
Glenn Richardson (center): House speaker wants to replace taxes levied on property with those charged for services.

Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson says the state's property-tax system is broken, and he wants to fix it.

Under the plan Mr. Richardson outlined to members of the Kiwanis Club of Augusta on Monday, property taxes on houses, vehicles, inventories, boats and planes would be eliminated and the revenue replaced by taxes on services.

Mr. Richardson's goal is to get the state Legislature to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year calling for the elimination of all property taxes in favor of a sales-tax system.

"We ought to be taxing the exchange and receipt of money, not ownership of land and houses," he said. "And we can do it, and local governments can get the same amount of money. We can do it, and not raise the rate. We simply have to eliminate a lot of the exemptions and expand the tax to services, like barbers, mechanics and such."

Mr. Richardson said the current system taxes people whether they have the ability to pay and regardless of what services they use because it taxes land and buildings, not investments.

The current ad valorem tax system is too old, too big and too complicated, he said.

"It's out of touch with today's economy," he said. "When we started this, we were an agricultural economy, and we tax land because we planted corn or cotton. We taxed land based on its ability to produce crops. And we had the bill come due in the fall so when your crops came you paid the taxes. And we did this all over this country because it was the only way to generate a sure source of revenue."

From 1990 to 2005, personal income rose 146.8 percent, but revenue, the actual money received by governmental entities from property taxes, rose 176.8 percent, he said.

Mr. Richardson said he wants to get to a tax system that would allow people who have paid off their mortgages not to have to worry about losing their houses.

"What kind of system is this?" he asked. "We have a system of taxation in Georgia that the whole nation has. And everybody asks me, 'What other states are doing this?' Well, none. They don't have the vision or the courage to lead. Somebody's got to be first, and I'd like for Georgia to be first in something."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.