County wants higher taxes on alcohol
by Jon Gillooly
December 04, 2012 12:26 AM | 2268 views | 5 5 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
David Hankerson
David Hankerson
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MARIETTA — County officials want lawmakers to allow the state caps on alcohol beverage taxes to be increased by 50 percent.

County Manager David Hankerson’s executive assistant, Judy Skeel, made the request during a breakfast between county commissioners and the Cobb legislative delegation on Friday at the Safety Village.

Skeel made the presentation at the request of Hankerson. The agenda for the breakfast is set by county chairman Tim Lee.

“In these economic times, we’re trying to reduce our reliance on property taxes and diversify our revenue stream,” Skeel said. “It’s actually more of a user fee since the only people that would be paying it are the people that purchase alcohol.”

The request would increase the beer excise tax from $.00417 per ounce to $.006255 per ounce; wine from 22 cents per liter to 33 cents per liter; and liquor from 22 cents per liter to 33 cents per liter.

“It’s something that hasn’t been looked at in a number of years in terms of keeping up with cost of administration and inflation, and I just think it’s something as we look at diversifying our revenue sources that that’s one way we need the legislators help on,” Lee said.

State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) asked how much the tax currently collects.

For fiscal year 2012, the county government collected $4.6 million: $3.4 million from the beer tax, $804,912 for the wine tax and $365,083 for liquor, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said he did not support raising the tax.

“That’s not going anywhere,” he said.

Skeel also asked lawmakers to allow the county to impose a $5 to $15 fee on convicted cases to pay for technology expenses for the court system.

“We’ve been deferring over $5 million worth of technology-related projects since 2008 because the revenue just hasn’t been there,” Skeel said. “We’ve looked at raising fees county-wide and would like to have the ability to impose a court technology fee for all criminal cases processed by our courts.”

The revenue would go to fund hardware, software and other technology-related expenses for the court system, she said.

Imposing a $5 fee is anticipated to generate between $900,000 and $1.1 million.

Ehrhart said he would examine the proposal more closely.

“That has some possibilities. You know, it is a user fee for those who are convicted of crimes,” Ehrhart said.

Unlike the Marietta City Council, which takes a formal vote to adopt its legislative priorities, the Board of Commissioners did not take such a vote, Commissioner Helen Goreham said. At the same time, Goreham said she liked the two proposals.

“The one for the courts, as I understood it, that would be a fee in criminal cases that would only be levied if the individual was convicted of a crime,” Goreham said. “As far as the alcohol beverage tax, I would have to look at it. I think we are not in line with most states as far as that tax, and in these days where we’re looking again for additional revenue, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to make us comparable to other jurisdictions in that area.”

Hankerson’s assistant wasn’t alone in asking for funding at the breakfast.

Dr. Jack Kennedy, district health director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health, pointed out that public health infrastructure is in trouble. Georgia’s population has grown by more than 18 percent since 2000 yet funding for public health has been cut by more than 20 percent, he said.

“Georgia spends about four cents per person per day for public health in the state, which is just about the lowest contribution of any state in the entire country,” Kennedy said, noting the average salary for a public health staff nurse is $37,000, compared to the market rate of $61,000.

Kennedy requested that Georgia’s cigarette tax be increased by $1 per pack to $1.37.

Dr. Dan Stephens, chair of the Cobb Public Health Board of Directors, said Cobb County is funded on a 1970 Census count.

“For our legislators I have a deal for you: You don’t have to appropriate any money. You don’t have to spend any money. But you can help us tremendously if we can just get the budget funded based on the 2010 population, not the ’70,” he said.

Per capita spending in Cobb County for mental health and for the Board of Health is the lowest of any county in the state of Georgia, he said.

Lee, who serves on the health board by virtue of his office, supports the request to use 2010 census data.

“If you assume that there is a percentage of every society that gets treated through public health, as our population has grown so has that number of people in Cobb County that have to utilize public health for services,” Lee said.

Ehrhart said the trouble is the state has a budget hole to fill.

“I understand Dan’s passion for that. They’re going to have to make do with that they have,” Ehrhart said.

Morgan said when people are out of work as many are today they rely on public health services.

“And the fact that we’re funding at a 1970 level should be unacceptable. I wasn’t even born in 1970, so it’s hard to imagine we’re still funding at that level and it should be unacceptable,” Morgan said. “Obviously we need to understand that when you don’t have money you can’t address every problem that we have, but I do think that that needs to be seriously looked at.”
Comments
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VFP42
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December 04, 2012
What sort of liberal hooey is this? We all know you increase tax revenue by lowering the tax rate.

If you raise the tax rate, obviously you get less revenue.

So why is this absurd idea surfacing here in Republican land? And why SPLOST? That's a tax rate increase which of course reduces the revenue. We all know this by now!! Romney and Ryan said so!

Raise tax rates to raise revenues? It's insane!

This Hankerson guy needs to pack his bags and go find a union job up in Chicago where people might be dumb enough to believe this sort of liberal lie about higher tax rates increasing revenue.

How dumb does he take us for?
I26
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December 04, 2012
Should there be a tax added on the Garden products corn, peas, beans etc?

All things big or small at the garden.
Voice of Reality
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December 04, 2012
I am not a smoker, but any tax on cigarettes should be used for treatment and rehab (not advertising) getting folks off cigarettes - not revenue to spend elsewhere. If you raise the cigarette tax over 300% (from $0.37 to 1.37 per pack), just expect the smuggling of cigarettes to increase as well as for people to buy them outside Georgia or find another way to avoid the tax (theft). Any tax increase if not absorbed, will be avoided. Look at the number of people from New York here buying cigarettes and running back to New York to sell at $25 /carton markups due to their taxes.
get real, Earl
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December 04, 2012
They’re going to have to make do with that they have,” Ehrhart said.

Stephens, Lee and Morgan are way more on target here than Ehrhart! In previous requests, I've heard Stephens say we need to take care of the least of the least, those who are trying but really need help. Amazing what things the legislature can find time and money for but not provide for those who are in need. Shameful.
anonymous
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December 04, 2012
If there is no more money to be had, we should at least distribute the money based on current populations, not a 1970's model. There are now more people in the northern regions of Georgia than there were in 1970.

The real answer, of course, is the politicos in the south of the state don't want to give up their money. They do not care if the ratio is out of balance; they just want the money not to change, regardless of how many people move north.

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