Push for tax reform collapses with angry words on final day

ATLANTA --- Georgians won't be getting a tax cut after all.

Republicans who had pledged to wipe out the car tag tax, slash the income tax and cap property assessments delivered on none of those promises Friday night as the clock ran out on a rancorous legislative session.

The logjam over taxes appeared to have doomed an ambitious effort to fund transportation improvements and another that would prop up the state's cash-strapped trauma network.

The tax cuts fell victim to a bitter clash between House Speaker Glenn Richardson and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Republicans who were each pushing competing plans.

Mr. Richardson pronounced the tax cut "dead" with an hour left in the chaotic final day of the legislative session and called for Mr. Cagle's ouster.

"When you go home on the tag tax, tell everyone it has a new name: the Cagle birthday tax. Every time they pay it, they can think of Casey Cagle," said Mr. Richardson. A last-minute compromise to funnel the state portion of property taxes to fund trauma care was scuttled. State lawmakers worked for months to cobble together a plan to allow local governments to levy a 1-cent sales tax for transportation projects to ease the state's congested roads. It stalled.

Lawmakers voted to allow Georgians with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns on public transportation, in state parks and at restaurants.

But vast changes to the education system and drought-inspired measures to bolster Georgia's reservoir system went nowhere.

Tax cuts were the biggest casualty and signaled a new feud among the state's ruling GOP.

The House, in a surprise move, voted Tuesday to adopt both competing tax plans -- which would cost a combined $1.7 billion -- but the Senate refused to follow suit.

They put aside their differences long enough to achieve their only constitutional duty -- adopting the annual budget -- late Friday when they voted overwhelmingly to adopt a $21.2 billion budget with virtually no debate.

The budget boosts salaries for state employees, funnels money into schools and slashes $245 million without any layoffs or major program cuts. Gov. Sonny Perdue had ordered spending cuts to deal with slowing tax collections.

The Senate gave final passage to a bill that would fix part of the sex offender law struck down by the state's top court.

BORDER LINE DEBATE

ATLANTA --- Lawmakers in drought-parched Georgia voted Friday to ask mapmakers to redraw their state's northern boundary in hopes of tapping the Tennessee River, in a vote that potentially escalates a conflict with their neighbor.

If negotiations fail, the bill would authorize Georgia's top attorney to file a lawsuit to try forcing a boundary change.

The House and Senate both approved the measure. It now goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue, who has not said whether he supports it.

Congress in 1796 designated that Tennessee's southern borders stretch along the 35th parallel, but surveyors in 1818 were a bit off the mark. They now know that the border was placed about 1.1 miles south of where it should be.

The resolution asserts that the flawed survey mistakenly placed Georgia's northern line just short of the Tennessee River, which has about 15 times greater flow than the one burgeoning Atlanta depends on for water.

Tennessee hasn't taken kindly to Georgia's drought-inspired bid, and a growing number of Georgia lawmakers are also began to question the measure.

-- Associated Press