Outlawing train wrecks

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If the governor could sign a bill prohibiting a train wreck, he'd do it, of course.

That's pretty much what he did on Tuesday.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue held his nose and signed a bill releasing $428 million in "homeowner tax relief grants" for local governments that had promised the relief to their local taxpayers.

Under the program, a holdover from Gov. Roy Barnes, the state pays a portion of your local property tax for you (using, of course, money you sent to the state in the first place).

Gov. Sonny Perdue never liked the scheme, and we can't blame him a bit; it's just a shell game. So, when the state saw last year that it would be facing a $2 billion budget shortfall, the program was immediately targeted for elimination.

That was still up in the air until Tuesday, however.

State lawmakers, feeling heat from local units of government, had passed a bill that would keep the revenue-sharing program alive for at least this fiscal year. But the governor wasn't sure where the money would come from -- for this program he doesn't much care for. So it wasn't certain what was going to happen.

A train wreck was possible if the state didn't come through with the money and local governments either had to cut their budgets or bill homeowners for the $200 to $300 apiece that the grants amount to. Perdue decided to avoid that train wreck when it became known that Georgia would be getting federal stimulus money that could cover the amount of the grants.

We've said before that we agree with the governor that the tax shell game is ludicrous and should be ended. But it was clearly turning out to be a hardship on local governments for the state to end the program abruptly, after the year's budgets had already been set in stone. So yeah, a train wreck outlawed.

The program definitely needs to be ended in future fiscal years. It's just silly for the state to use your tax money in Atlanta to subsidize your local property taxes to make them look artificially smaller.

In truth, the governor's pen may have averted several train wrecks.

If the state had withheld the tax relief grant money to local governments, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia was advising its member governments that, by law, they would be forced to send out new tax bills -- and to have homeowners cover the cost of the withdrawn state funds. The ACCG claimed that not passing on the cost of the grants to taxpayers would have been an unconstitutional "gratuity."

We think that's abject nonsense, and perhaps fodder for a court challenge. A loss of revenue is not a "gratuity." By that logic, anytime the state or local government receives less revenue than expected, it's an unconstitutional "gratuity" to taxpayers, and taxes must be raised.

How silly is that?

Thankfully, Perdue sidestepped that dilemma, and local governments didn't have to choose.

Comments (11) Add comment
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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 02/18/09 - 03:37 am
0
0
Removing the tax break is

Removing the tax break is called a tax hike. If there's a budget over run, a reduction in spending or a tax hike is the only way to cure it. Are subsidy programs still taboo?

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 02/18/09 - 08:35 am
0
0
Excellent distinction, PT.

Excellent distinction, PT. Sometimes Republicans also refer to taxes as "revenue enhancers." Never call a spade a spade (it's an entrenching implement). The only reason Sonny balked at the trough on this one is because he spied another source of swill: that sack of wheat shorts called "stimulus package." As with that old socialistic social security, we are diametrically opposed, but we certainly don't have any problem sucking it all up, do we Sonny? SooooEEEE! Hog and Hypocrite. It's politicians like you who have taken all the grandeur out of the G.O.P. Root Hog Or Die.

I4PUTT
5
Points
I4PUTT 02/18/09 - 08:40 am
0
0
I suggest we do a 2 % sales

I suggest we do a 2 % sales tax hike nationwide. The money can only be used to pay off all national debt. Starting now all government programs must operate within a balanced budget that is to decrease by 2% each year until we can afford our government. This would certainly not include any more bail outs.

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 02/18/09 - 08:55 am
0
0
how about eliminating all

how about eliminating all forms of public assistance to illegal aliens...that would save quite a bit. the next step would be to cut back on welfare and subsidized housing

blamin
0
Points
blamin 02/18/09 - 09:20 am
0
0
Dashiel, anytime the gov't

Dashiel, anytime the gov't returns tax money to taxpayers, it's a good thing. Historically pork was defined as unnecessary gov't spending, recently dumbarsecrats have attempted to redefine a reduction of taxes as pork, don't fall for the ruse. The fact is, the government takes too much money from the producers, to fund things they have no business sticking their snouts into. I can understand your distaste for taking a share of the stimulus money, as the editor explained, Perdue also has distaste for the shell game. One has to use the tools provided.

Riverman1
83848
Points
Riverman1 02/18/09 - 10:43 am
0
0
Of course the real solution

Of course the real solution is that counties must cut spending for schools and local government to a level compatible with realistic and bearable taxation in this severe economic downturn. Instead of thinking this is a temporary blip in the economy, start thinking things are changed forever in this country in our lifetime. Sooner or later, money out has to equal money in.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 02/18/09 - 11:15 am
0
0
"As with that old socialistic

"As with that old socialistic social security, we are diametrically opposed, but we certainly don't have any problem sucking it all up, do we Sonny?" Wait, now, dashiel, if SS were an optional program, you would have a point. Since 14.5% of my earnings are forcibly confiscated from me, however, I don't have much choice but to try and recover those lost earnings by accepting SS payments when the time comes. Though, in my case, there will be no SS payments available--or else inflation will have made my "insurance" irrelevant. Given that the CURRENT level of unfunded U.S. Govt liabilities exceeds the GROSS value of the entire PLANET's cumulative economic activity, I'm thinking that I won't be collecting big on my "entitlement." Your thoughts?

mad_max
0
Points
mad_max 02/18/09 - 11:39 am
0
0
Ricmond Couny taxpayers you

Ricmond Couny taxpayers you just got a 1 year reprieve. You probably will not get it again. We need to start now to select candidates for ALL of the local elected positions that believe in living within a budget, no wastefull spending, no pie in the sky projects that we do not need. The clowns downtown need to go. The entire commission and school board need to be overturned along with the airport commission and the coliseum authority. The people we have now carry their little pet peeve projects into their position and think that it is fine to waste your money to get what they think is a good idea. Local government, at this state of the economy, needs to only be doing the essentials. Water, sewer, police, roads, etc. School boards need to be doing the minimum to meet mandated requirements. The arts, museums, etc. need to make it on their own or go away. If they cannot support themselves then there must not be any interest from the masses. Taxpayers should not support something that only a few people are interested in. If we support the "arts" and museums how about some money to support gun shows and fishing tournaments. Times are hard. Get out of the taxpayers pocket. We're not ATMs

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 02/18/09 - 12:39 pm
0
0
mad: They wanted to build a

mad: They wanted to build a race track but most were against it. Bubba Sonny already has his pork in the budget for his fish ponds and development for fishing tournaments. It seems the AC is for tax breaks if proposed by Repubs, against them if proposed by Dems and the same for spending.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 02/18/09 - 01:35 pm
0
0
TechLover, I don't see how

TechLover, I don't see how you can say "It seems the AC is for tax breaks if proposed by Repubs, against them if proposed by Dems and the same for spending." The AC has been pretty consistently in favor of tax breaks (viz. editorials offering praise for 'at least' the small portion of the "stimulus" bill that might end up in taxpayer pockets), as it has been pretty consistently in favor of spending cuts. In this case, GA is (believe it or not) fortunate to have a relatively modest budget shortfall that can be addressed by cutting some items that, in the greater scheme of things, amount to "luxuries." If you don't have enough money to cover expenses, you either cut expenses or get more money. Only liberals look for the "third way" (mortgaging our great-great-grandchildren), and those liberals are much in evidence in BOTH political parties. Hell, the republicans put one on their national ticket! So, since this "tax break" was simply a refund of local taxes funded by state taxes, it's perfectly reasonable to say that the state will no longer be able to make the local governments look good by "crediting" me with my own money...

jack
10
Points
jack 02/18/09 - 03:49 pm
0
0
Right on Johnsmith!

Right on Johnsmith!

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