Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tax reform and the p.r. game

A little free-flowing analysis, wild guessing, etc., etc. on tax reform...

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson almost can't lose on this deal. He's pushing the state to get rid of property taxes, and he's got his name attached to it even though there are plenty of other state leaders who support the change and who contributed to the methodology on it.

Hell, even Democrats are calling it "the Glenn tax," and I keep writing "Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's tax reform plan" in the paper. It's never a bad idea to have your name right next to the phrase "tax reform."

If this thing passes, the speaker has pushed through the most sweeping statewide reform since, what, desegregation? If it fails, that's almost better. He gets to say he tried. Of course, if it succeeds and everything goes haywire he's got trouble. But at this point I'd say it's got a long way to go to pass.

Anyway, "I tried my best" is not a bad platform for a Republican to run for governor on. Though, personally, I don't think the speaker will run for governor, choosing instead to become a long-lived speaker and avoid the microscope that comes with a statewide campaign.

Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is forced into something of a media backseat. He was the big news last year as the first Republican lieutenant governor, and because he was driving the bus on education reform. But now tax reform is everyone's top issue. Gov. Sonny Perdue still wants his income tax cut for senior citizens and Cagle seems to be leaning toward a push for income tax reform (though you kind of have to read between the lines on that - Cagle's public comments seem really non-committal to me).

Where this all will go, and how much in-fighting it leads to, is anyone's guess. Richardson seems to be asking the Senate and the Lt. Gov. and the Gov. to work with the House early. Still, tax reform could gridlock the session this year.

Which brings me to another potential big winner in all of this: Dublin state Rep. DuBose Porter and the Democratic Party. Richardson's plan needs a 2/3 vote to pass, which means the Dems are going to be wooed. Porter has been pushing for a while to fully fund the state's homestead exemption, which would take a big bite out of property taxes - but only on a family's primary home.

The easy spin on that: You give "ordinary Georgians" a tax break, but not the big, bad rich folks who own large tracts of land.

Now, that's not a bad compromise if your goal is to give homeowners tax relief. Of course the Republican leadership probably won't want to cede the high ground on tax reform to the Democratic Party, particularly since Porter may very well run for governor in 2010.

So take all that for what it's worth. And remember, what I don't know could fill a warehouse.

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