Olens, former Cobb commission chairman, told a meeting of the county Republican Party that Georgia legislators have only been willing to take small steps toward tax reform. He added, “And I think it’s really necessary to take the big steps.” Then he defined big steps this way:
“If you look at all the tax credits and other types of corporate welfare we have in our state, you’re sort of choosing some winners and losers in that regard. Wouldn’t it be better to simply have no corporate welfare, eliminate the income tax and put all companies on the same level playing field?”
That’s a rhetorical question, and thus the answer is: Yes. Olens went on to say he wasn’t against helping business, but “I support helping all business rather than once again choosing which business.” He spoke of an obligation to tell members of the General Assembly they need to “get jobs, and that doesn’t mean corporate welfare. That means replacing the tax code, both federal and state, and having guidelines that actually promote job growth.”
If there was any doubt about what he meant, he said, “I think we need to stop the game of the credits and the deductions and just stop the tax.”
In making that case, Olens put himself at odds with the 2012 law (HB 386) passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. The measure eliminated state sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, saving manufacturers about $150 million a year, the State Chamber of Commerce says, adding that the law was “successful in helping attract Caterpillar’s relocation to Georgia, which will create more than 1,400 jobs for Georgians.” The law also provides a sales tax exemption on commercial aviation fuel.
HB 386 created exemptions for other things such as seed, fertilizers and insecticides for agriculture, saving producers about $17 million a year, according to the state chamber. However, the law eliminated tax exemption for filmmaking in Georgia. The new law also was ballyhooed as the end of the “birthday tax,” the annual ad valorem tax on motor vehicles, in favor of a new one-time title fee, aka tax.
On the plus side for individual taxpayers, HB 386 reduced the marriage penalty and increased the personal exemption for married couples significantly with a projected reduction of $140 million annually in income taxes to the state. The law also freezes and caps retirement income tax exclusion for seniors at $65,000.
No doubt, eliminating the income tax — personal and corporate — in Georgia would make the state more competitive with neighbors Tennessee and Florida that have no such taxes. That makes a good campaign platform plank for, say, a candidate for governor of Georgia next year. Just a little food for thought, folks.