Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams discusses some thoughts about the newly unveiled Georgia Water Plan from the Water Council. Tommie said he has not read the entire plan but he is aware of controversial issues such as interbasin pumping. As to that issue he says he is in agreement with the Riverkeeper organizations that oppose such methods.
According to Tommie the legislature is prepared to do its own investigation into this issue, not just adopt whatever the Water Council proposes. There is $20 million in the budget to allow for adequate study and development of an alternative proposal. That sounds good, real good.
What I don’t understand is the provision in the 2004 Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Planning Act which provides that if the legislature does not adopt some plan at the 2008 session of the legislature, the Water Council proposal becomes law. I have never understood why the legislature passes legislation that essentially says that if the elected officials can’t decide what to do, so unelected agency or bureaucrat gets to decide the issue. What do we elect them for?
Tommie was quick to point out that there is some question as to whether or not this delegation of responsibility is even constitutional. A court will have to decide that and it may well come to that. I just wonder why nobody thought about that when the Act was passed into law 3 years ago.
This is going to be a big issue folks, pitting environmentalists and the country people against the big city developers that want to pave everything between the north Georgia mountains and Macon. All I can say is the day someone tells me the water under my land is going to be pumped to Atlanta so some rich dude can develop something is the day the Devil Came Down to Georgia.
Tommie also gives us a glimpse of the push in the 2008 legislature to do away with property taxation in favor of a broader sales tax base with fewer exemptions. That would probably mean taxes on services, as well as goods. You know services, like haircuts, mowing lawns and attorney fees.
Tommie did not indicate that the income tax may be eliminated, although some have talked about that as well. I am not sure Tommie has much appreciation for the fact that the sales tax is a regressive tax. Simply, people with low income pay a higher percentage of their income toward the tax than people with higher incomes. Higher sales taxes shifts more of the burden to low income families. Some people think this is fair on the theory that if you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t spend the money. That logic may apply to a boat but not to a bottle of milk for the kid.
It is sure to be a sticky issue.
Tommie also talks about the transportation problem in Metro Atlanta. He seems to agree that building more roads is not going to solve the problem. He told me that some 450,000 people ride MARTA everyday. The problem is the 2 or 3 million that don’t. Tommie threw out 2 suggestions: some sort of perimeter oriented mass transit and trolleys for downtown. Is this what he was thinking about? I was thinking more like a high speed train from Alpharetta to Five Points. Another intractable problem solved!
2008 is going to be something!