Having just finished a special session to redraw the Georgia House, Georgia Senate, and Congressional maps ordered by a judge, there is no rest for the legislators as our regular session starts January 8. It is the earliest in the year a session can start as it begins by law on the 2nd Monday of the year. In the meantime, the maps will go back to the judge for review.
The session this year will be a lively one. We will be accelerating a tax cut that is being exhibited. The original rate of 6% has been reduced to 5.75%. It was scheduled to go to 5.49% on January 1st, but legislation supported by the Governor, House, and Senate will reduce that to 5.39% retroactive to January 1st.
The Lt. Governor and leadership have also asked me to introduce legislation on property tax assessments. When I was a County Commissioner from 1999 to 2006, we enacted a homeowner freeze on Floyd County taxes. However, it does not apply to school taxes, which comprise about 75% of the tax bill. We will propose a cap that will allow an increase of no more than 3% a year and do away with many silly notices and incorrect statements on the bill. This should have prevented massive tax increases in future years and been done long ago.
The tax credit committee I chaired this off-session is finishing up its work. We will propose legislation to allow transparency about who is getting these tax breaks. One tax break alone, the now famous film tax credit, has created jobs in Georgia but at an enormous cost. This one break alone costs 1 out of every 12 income tax dollars in Georgia (almost $300 per household annually). Should small business owners send $300 dollars each year to an industry where most of the dollars go to out-of-state individuals, or should we let them keep the $300 dollars and invest in their own small businesses? Again, this is just one of many tax credits. North Carolina has taken an approach of virtually eliminating these breaks and giving everyone a tax cut. Their rate was higher than Georgia’s, going to 3.99% on January 1st, with plans to go to 3.2%. The state is our number one competitor for business in the south, and it is thriving. We must remain competitive.
Two healthcare issues will be discussed. One is the Arkansas Medicaid waiver that puts those in the 100% to 138% income level on private insurance, with the Federal Government paying 90% of the cost through its Medicaid program.
The other issue is the CON (Certificate of Need), which prohibits building health facilities without approval. South Carolina recently eliminated their CON; other states, such as Texas, eliminated it years ago. I am a proponent of the free market, but it requires a level playing field–which we don’t have. We seek ways to level the playing field and get the government less involved in these decisions. You may also see tradeoffs between the groups wanting Medicaid and those wanting a CON.
These and many other issues make for a robust upcoming session. I will represent our great district in the best ways I can. I work to continue to reduce taxes, reduce government, and, among other things, continue to have our teachers have the highest average pay in the south—from Texas to Virginia.
Also, if you haven’t noticed, industry is booming in our area and will accelerate in the next few years. A healthy, educated workforce is the number one need in our State
Thanks as always for allowing me to represent you. Let’s make 2024 a great year for our district.
State Senate Committee Memberships:
- Appropriations, Ex-Officio
- Finance, Chairman
- Health and Human Services, Member
- Rules, Member