Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Plan Gaining Higher Interest; but Is Richardson Just Touting It to Make a Name for Himself?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Plan Gaining Higher Interest; but Is Richardson Just Touting It to Make a Name for Himself?

Article excerpt

Byline: WALTER C. JONES

ATLANTA - Interest is building in the plan to rework the state and local taxing system, both among the public and among those looking to punch holes in it.

It's the most important issue in the minds of a plurality of respondents surveyed by InsiderAdvantage, according to a poll released Wednesday. It came ahead of such headline topics as transportation, Sunday alcohol sales, stopping payday lending and replacing the high school sports oversight body with a government agency.

In the survey conducted Sept. 17 of 508 Georgians, 40.3 percent ranked the tax plan tops. It ranked first among men, women and every ethnic group.

It's only when party affiliation is considered that differences appear. Exactly half the Republicans rank the tax proposal No. 1, while the Democrats and independents put transportation slightly ahead.

Still, the 36-34 percent difference of Democrats' ranking of transportation over taxes, and the independents' 37-36 priority of the two issues, are both within the 4 percentage point margin of error. That shows how much attention the issue is getting, even if the choices for survey respondents didn't include topics like water management, health care and education.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, has been traveling around the state talking up his idea for swapping state and local property taxes with a beefed-up sales tax. He says his own poll shows three out of four people favor his idea.

If it's considered as the most important issue before the General Assembly, he'll have ample political momentum to push his bill through. Of course, many pundits and political bloggers give the measure a less-than-even chance of passage at this point.

PLAN FACES HURDLES

Four hurdles cropped up over the summer.

One is a road show sponsored by the local governments that view Richardson's concept as robbing them of power because they wouldn't be able to determine their budgets. Instead, the General Assembly would allocate some portion of the state's sales tax to each city, county and school district with a formula that he hasn't revealed yet. And newspapers across the state have been filled with stories on each individual government body objecting to the plan during regular monthly meetings.

But Richardson is confident the public distaste for property taxes will out-shout the local politicians.

A second roadblock comes from other politicians who might have their own reasons to keep Richardson in check. Gov. Sonny Perdue, for one, has signaled that he will soon unveil his own tax plan, not to mention his campaign promise to protect senior citizens from income taxes. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, considered a rival to Richardson for the 2010 gubernatorial nomination, has been publicly cool to the speaker's idea. …

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