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Tax reform must be fair, immediate

by Dan Moody

March 20, 2008

When I think about tax reform, I am reminded of the famous words of President Ronald Reagan, who once said, "The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

Over the last few years, Georgia lawmakers have heard the voices of citizens loud and clear when it comes to taxes. Whether it's the federal income tax, the state income tax, the gas tax or the sales tax, the General Assembly heard the outcry and for the past two sessions has tried to ease the tax burden of hardworking Georgia citizens.

In the Senate, we have passed several tax reform measures since the beginning of the 2007 session. Some of these measures have become law at the local level in certain counties, providing much-needed relief for seniors and other entities serving the public.

However, we have yet to find consensus on a comprehensive tax reform plan that provides relief to every citizen not just certain segments of the population. We now have that opportunity in Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's recently announced tax reform plan.

The Senate tax reform plan offers the hardworking, taxpaying citizens of this state a broad-based tax reduction that will allow them to keep more of their earned income. If passed, the plan will reduce income taxes 10 percent across the board for every citizen who pays income tax, not just those at the top rate of 6 percent.

The cuts would be phased in over five years in annual installments, beginning this year July 1.

President Reagan saw the U.S. economy rebound successfully in the 1980s through this type of cut to the income tax, as President Kennedy did in the 1960s. Many economists attest to the fact that a broad income tax cut represents the single best fiscal policy to improve the economy.

That is why we believe this is the best plan for our state, because it benefits citizens who work hard every day and follow the law by filing a tax return.

Our plan will help Georgia by putting money back into the pockets of taxpayers.

As a fiscal conservative, I believe that along with a reduction in taxes we must reduce government spending to make tax cuts real and permanent. The Senate plan will require state legislators to find real savings in next year's budget to fund tax relief, rather than delaying the decision or passing the responsibility to local officials.

When fully implemented, it will provide over $1 billion per year in tax relief to Georgians who file income tax returns. If passed, this would be the largest state tax cut in Georgia history. And it would make our economy even more attractive for businesses seeking to invest in Georgia.

Whether it's the removal of the state income tax, ad valorem taxes or limitations on government taxation power, it is safe to say that we will see changes in the Georgia tax code in the coming years.

In my mind, reducing the burden of the state income tax is the fairest, most immediate and legal way to help our economy, create new jobs and help Georgia families keep more money in their pockets.

Our economy is at a critical juncture, where the decisions we make today, will affect many generations to come. I think it's time we follow the lead of one of America's greatest leaders and consider a serious, long-term tax reform plan to answer the outcry of overburdened Georgia taxpayers. The Senate's tax plan does just that.