Anyone who keeps up with politics in Georgia, keeps up with JasonPye.com. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Jason and get his take on issues and people.
In this interview, Jason discusses some of the details of Speaker Richardson’s proposal to eliminate the property tax and broaden the sales tax. Jason gives credit to Travis Fain for the details of what goods and services would be taxed under the plan. Jason says there is a need for clarification as to some of the things that will be taxed. For example, the plan would tax temporary lodging over 90 days. Does this refer only to the extended motel or hotel stay, or does it include your apartment rent. For a list of what exemptions will be eliminated, go here.
If the Speaker has his way, we will be paying sales tax on water bills, phone and long distance services, dental services, and haircuts, just to name a few. The state portion of the sales tax we pay is currently 4% and, as I understand it, would remain unchanged.
Of course, one of the most important issues is whether or not enough revenue can be generated from the expansion of the sales tax to make up the revenue lost through the elimination of the property tax. Jason said there was a study by Georgia State University which indicates there would be a significant shortfall. However, the Speaker insists there won’t be a short fall. The question is whether the Speaker’s optimism is merely blind faith or reliable economic analysis.
Jason points out that one of the problems with the Speaker’s plan is the manner in which it is being revealed and promoted. For example, Speaker Richardson has made it apparent that he is not receptive to any criticism of his plan, and generally avoids discussing it in public.
Politically, the unknown consequences of this battle over the Speaker’s tax proposal is the repercussions it will have on Republicans in the ’08 elections. The elimination of the property tax is a sticky local issue for two reasons: (1) every citizen is likely to jump up and salute the elimination of the property tax, and (2) the local city and county governments oppose its elimination since it is their main source of revenue. There is not, at least as far as Jason and I are aware, any city or county elected officials that support the Speaker’s plan. In fact, Jason said one mayor compared it to the centralized government proposed by Karl Marx. Next year in seeking re-election, Republican representatives are going to have to explain their support for the plan and that could make them vulnerable to significant criticism at home. And if they don’t support the plan, they are subject to criticism as well.
Everyone believes, thinks and assumes that Speaker Richardson controls the House Republicans with an iron rod. Jason thinks he is literally staking his political future on passing this plan. But, when all is said and done, Jason says the plan will go down in flames because it has no chance of passsing the Senate. And maybe that is part of the Speaker’s plan, too! Is this a strategy to build a platform to run for Governor in 2010? Trying to eliminate the property tax may get the vote of a lot of Georgians, regrdless of whether or not it is a bad idea. And what happens if an opponent in the Governor’s race, say one from the Senate or elsewhere, opposed eliminating the property tax?
I was disheatened when our discussion turned to the Atlanta Water Shortage. I thought Jason, smart guy that he is, would jump at my offer to rent my trailer to him when they run out of water in Atlanta. He seems oddly unconcerned, even though I was only charging two grand a week for hot water and 6 baths a day.
Jason says there is no sense of panic, at least not in the county where he lives, Newton. Its reservoir is full. Although no outside water use is allowed, he thinks people, generally, have a degree of blind faith that the problem will get resolved. No one seems to be laying blame for the situation getting this bad–other than whoever caused the drought. On top of that, the Governor is getting favorable approval ratings for the manner in which he is handling the problem.
Jason did say that if the optimism proves unfounded, he is coming to live with me. Fine Jason, but without a paid, advance reservation, the rate goes up!
We ended the interview with a few comments about Ron Paul and the libertarian philosophy. Ron Paul seems to be experiencing a spike in his campaign and support. He is one of those who says what he means and means what he says and to that extent he is refreshing. But then, you ask the next question and find out he thinks the Food and Drug Administration (or a dozen or so other federal agencies) should be eliminated, not reformed, eliminated. Jason seems to think that is a good idea and believes the drug companies and market forces will make sure dangerous drugs don’t stay on the market.
Me? I am not concerned about bad drugs staying on the market. I am concerned about them getting on the market in the first place. Apparently, Jason thinks a few deaths to test a drug out are well worth the costs savings in not having the FDA require proof a drug is safe.
Back to Ron Paul. Jason doesn’t think America is ready to support a strong, independent third party, whether Libertarian or otherwise. Neither do I–right now. But if any man can birth a viable political party, virtually overnight, its George Bush. Rarely, has one man done so much, so wrong, so faithfully.