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In a recent op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sarah Beth Gehl of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute makes the case that the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness hit a triple when they came out with their policy recommendations for modernizing the state’s tax structure. The Council emphasized sales tax base expansion to include more services and broadening the state’s income tax base. 

Triples are good, but home runs are better and Gehl makes the case that the Council missed out on a homerun because they overlooked a key tax policy principle when devising its recommendations — tax fairness.  Citing ITEP data, she writes, “The best-off 1 percent of Georgians, those making more than $389,000 in 2010, would receive an almost $7,800 average yearly tax decrease. In the case of a Georgian making around $40,000, taxes would rise by about $400 a year.” 

Gehl identifies several sensible alternatives that the legislature could tack onto the Council’s recommendations that would take into account tax fairness, including more generous low-income tax relief and exempting groceries from the sales tax base.

There seems to be a contingent that is steering away from the debate and instead focusing on what Grover Norquist would approve of. In fact, to appease Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform, the Council actually reconvened earlier this week to vote on a resolution which claimed that the intent of the Council’s recommendations was that they were to be “revenue-neutral.” Because, of course, Norquist’s group would never give the thumbs up to a proposal that actually raised revenue to meet the needs of Georgians.

The Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure met this week to debate the Council’s recommendations. We’ll be watching their actions closely and it sounds like Grover will be too.