Money or elections – scale could swing either way

The state legislature will go back to work next week and it may face some financial decisions.

Former Gov. Nathan Deal is looking smarter by the day. He suggested the legislature should wait and see if the state government got millions of dollars because of the federal tax bill that President Donald Trump pushed.

The legislature, in its wisdom, declined and voted to cut the state’s income tax. Did I mention it occurred in an election year.

I could not understand why Gov. Brian Kemp was calling for budget cuts in the current government and next year. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, far more detailed and accurate than our representatives, those cuts are now apparent.

The budget estimates for the current year have been a struggle – through November they were behind the projections. When you start looking for those responsible, you might start with every representative who voted to cut the state income tax rate.

Much as we hate it, a direct correlation can be found between the state income tax rate and the state income.

Plus, the state budget includes the assumption that the economy will keep growing, thus adding to the state’s revenue.

The local economy around the state shows growth. Sales tax revenue in most counties, certainly in those we cover, is up. In the counties that are growing – Jackson and Barrow particularly – the sales tax revenue increases are padding the counties’ coffers – although the money can be used only for some things.

It might be wise for the board of commissioners in most counties to hoard some money. We may need it, depending on what the state does.

When the last round of trimming was done – amid projections of millions and millions of state dollars – the legislature scheduled another cut in the income tax rate.

Now that trimming has come around. Oh, it’s another election year.

I don’t have any knowledge about the state budget or the revenue projections. One clue will be the mid-year budget adjustments that we will see in February, probably. Those have been increases in the past couple of years. Will they be again? Who knows with Kemp asking state departments to trim back.

My fear is public education. My view that public schools are underfunded is well-known for those who pay any attention to these ramblings.

I have little sympathy for senior citizens who seek tax exemptions from paying school taxes. If they have any kids (I don’t by the way, but two grandsons, and I am a senior who pays school taxes), they will be paying for 12 years of education for a long time before they “pay for” their kids.

Nearly any school system pays a “local” share of education that is far more than most folks – even those well off – pay in school taxes. “Well off” folks may pay close to $2,000 in school taxes. In most school districts, that would pay about half the local share for education.

Remember please, that school taxes are only a part of your bill. You also pay city taxes, maybe fire taxes and county taxes.

I have covered school systems for more than 40 years. A number of “reforms” – or fads – have come and gone. More responsibilities have been piled on to “education.”

Many parents no longer teach their children much of anything. “Soft skills” is my particular peeve. No one but my daddy and mother taught me to show up on time and work diligently. I learned to do a resume by looking at resumes and talking to other folks. Many kids don’t know the word. Teachers are expected to do that now.

But I digress.

The state legislators also are underpaid. They have an impossible job meeting all the demands they face.

They also are short on backbone. I’ll cover an “eggs and issues” meeting Wednesday, Jan. 8, sponsored by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. I do not expect any of the legislators to say their constituents should pay more in taxes. Some may suggest a cut is deserved.

Georgians don’t overpay for government services. We pay little for what we get. Remember that the next pothole you hit.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Send email to him at ron@mainstreetnews.com.

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