Most of the ideas are voter-oriented, meaning they should have polling place pulling power and hence would make ideal questions to place on the 2008 ballot when taxpayers appear in far greater numbers. As these floated concepts include such as erasing school property taxes, wiping out car taxes, even getting rid of the income tax, theres no doubt they would look good ... so long as one doesnt pay too much attention to what would replace them. More sales taxes are the most-mentioned substitute.
Against that background it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the legislators do regarding a less dramatic, but likely more important, area where tax reform has been identified as needed. The need is among enterprises not able to cast votes, though they certainly contribute to campaigns. Its how business is taxed in Georgia, which apparently does not rank as an employer-friendly state.
ACCORDING TO the Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C., both Georgias taxes and paperwork hurdles for business are smack in the middle of all the states but higher than all its next-door competitors for business other than North Carolina.
One of the researchers, economist Jonathan Williams, warned legislators at a recent policy-discussion gathering not to focus on investing in schools and roads (which voters tend to agitate for) to lure employers. If you neglect your tax system for superior schools and well-paved roads, your well-educated young people are going to use those well-paved roads to find jobs in other states, he said.
Well, perhaps ... although in Georgia there are countervailing influences such as the HOPE scholarship program actually pulling young families in. Its always misleading to look at things in isolation.
At the same time, it has long been obvious that business shoulders more than its fair share, particularly as regards property taxes, in many locations. For example, in Floyd County an estimated 70-80 percent of property-tax revenue comes from business while entrepreneurial growth not only provides jobs, and hence more taxpayers, but also the places at which sales taxes can be collected.
AT PRESENT the only big push to lighten the load of state business is coming from House Bill 124, which would eliminate the tax on business inventories (visible to the rest of us mainly through those end-of-the-year inventory reduction sales pushed by car and furniture dealers).
According to sponsor Ron Stephens, R- Savannah, this tax puts border cities (Rome is such a place) at a disadvantage because it tempts businesses to put their warehouses with related jobs just over the border where such taxes dont still exist.
All this talk of tax reform needs to be broadened to include the big picture and not simply what might most appeal to voters. Any tax code should have neither winners nor losers a sure signal politics is at work but simply be fair to all with revenue collections reflecting the proportional need and use for public services. Business needs good roads and a better-educated workforce quite as much as do parents.
It would be interesting to learn, for example, not only where tax dollars come from but also where they go and how equal the pay/get distribution is. Some of this is rather subjective businesses use public parks only rarely, as for a company picnic, but their employees use them constantly. Thats hard to gauge.
ON THE OTHER hand, while businesses benefit from a law-abiding environment they only rarely have a need to call for police assistance.
Some sort of handle needs to be gotten on not only where the money to run government comes from but also who the activities of government benefit. Then, looking at the overall tax structure, it would become a lot easier to determine both whether and where tax reform might be needed to more even-handedly distribute the load.
Chances are the weight of the burden tilts toward private enterprise certainly many businessmen feel that way. If so, getting such adjustments past voters who may need to up their share of the ante would be difficult, to say the least.
Nonetheless, for the sake of fairness, the attempt should be made. And, for the sake of knowing who really wins and loses in a political environment, an analysis of the total tax picture should be general knowledge rather than the mystery it now is