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Jan. 10 is a big day for Georgia

Legislative update

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POSTED: January 5, 2011 10:33 a.m.

On Jan. 10, Nathan Deal will be sworn in as the 82nd governor of Georgia.
While this is, no doubt, a historic event in our state’s history, it may well be the least significant event of the day.
Not to take anything away from the former state senator and U.S. congressman’s political achievement of reaching our state’s highest office, but consider these other events taking place that same day:
• For the first time in our state’s history, all statewide officers being sworn in that day will be from the Republican party. 
• 14 newly elected Senate members and 35 newly elected House members will be sworn in, representing one of the largest member turnovers in our legislature’s history.
• The long awaited report of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians will be presented to the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.
While some may argue that a new governor trumps these other events, a closer look tells a different story.
Thus far, Gov-elect Deal has made few changes to the existing structure of state agencies. While a few department heads have been replaced, the majority have been retained, signifying to many observers that Deal intends to keep the status quo. 
That’s not the case for many of our statewide officers being sworn in Jan. 10. While the fact that they are all Republicans is indeed significant, some, such as Attorney Gen. Sam Olens, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black, will be the first Republicans to serve in those offices. Major changes can be expected.
The 14 newly elected Senate members and 35 newly elected House members are significant not only for their numbers but also for the fact that Republican caucuses in both chambers will now be close to having a constitutional majority. 
But perhaps the most significant event of all on Jan. 10 will be the report of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians. 
As a result of HB 1405, which was passed last year by the legislature, the 11-member council was charged with the mission of studying the state’s current tax revenue structure and making recommendations for changes. 
Since June, the council has held meetings and fact-finding sessions across the state to come up with proposals for a 21st century tax system that is pro-growth, job-friendly and fair for all citizens. 
Currently, 83 percent of Georgia’s tax revenue comes from personal, sales and use taxes. At a presentation to legislators in early December, the council indicated they intended to propose gradually replacing those taxes with consumption taxes. 
Top among these proposed consumption taxes is expected to be the return of taxes on groceries.  Widely viewed as one of the fairest taxes, critics charge that it punishes the poor. Supporters of the tax point out that the poor receive food stamps and therefore don’t pay this tax.
The tax council also is examining the various tax exemptions offered to attract and retain businesses in our state.
A new governor, new state-wide officers, new House and Senate members and a report from the tax council on Jan. 10 will indeed make for a historic day in our state.

 

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