Rest easy, everybody: The Georgia General Assembly will be back in session in less than three months.I find Peake's comments on the transportation tax very interesting.
Right now, things seem quiet. But rest assured policy is taking shape behind the scenes.
“This is sort of our talking-to-the-caucus phase,” said state Rep. Ed Lindsey, an Atlanta Republican and co-chairman of the Republican caucus’ off-session policy development committee.
Lindsey said “there is a commitment to move forward with a united transportation bill.”
Last month the details of what that might look like emerged, with the two sides talking about splitting the difference between a House plan for a statewide vote to approve a new penny tax and the Senate plan allowing counties to partner and pass their own regional penny taxes.
Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson and other House leaders insisted last session on having a coordinated statewide plan. But several more months of a bad economy may have changed their tune.
“I don’t think there’s an appetite for a statewide sales tax right now, because things have gotten so bad. ...” said State Rep. Allen Peake, a Macon Republican. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see (a transportation bill) come out early and get done.”
“Let’s let the metro area address (its transportation problems),” Peake said. “And if the Middle Georgia (counties) want to join together ... hey, let’s do a T-SPLOST so we can raise some money.”
Jobs creation is likely to be another big legislative issue this year, with the Republican majorities in both houses looking to pass tax credits and regulatory changes to boost economic development. Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed several of those measures earlier this year, and Lindsey and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, both said similar measures will be priorities again.
Rogers said legislators will work with the governor “because we don’t want another bill vetoed.” He said some measures from the last session will likely be part of the new effort, but “we’re not wedded to those.”
Finally, Lindsey said there is still talk of “how to make the property tax system fairer," and giving school systems more flexibility to raise and spend sales tax money, Lindsey said.
Lindsey said he expects House Resolution 1, last session’s constitutional effort to cap property tax assessment increases, to come back up this year as well.
A separate effort to do away with annual ad valorem taxes on automobiles will also come back up. The House passed its version last session, and the Senate will be “looking very seriously at that” and may pass a version with some changes, Rogers said.
Meanwhile, the heavy lifting on the state budget is about to get under way with department heads making their prop proposals to the governor later this month, Perdue communications director Bert Brantley said.
I wish I had video of the House leadership telling me and anyone else who would listen how wrong we were to suggest that a $25 billion tax increase might not pass muster with Georgia voters this year.