Republicans are playing shell game with property taxes


In the second full week of the legislative session, a Republican state senator introduced a brand new property tax overhaul designed to save you money. Under this legislation, he says, appeals will move faster and assessments will be fairer.

Of course, all eyes turned to this “fair tax” legislation, which is exactly what the state Republicans want. They want a distracted homeowner so eager to shave pennies off his assessment that he doesn’t notice the nearly $500 million in property tax increases mandated by the same Republican legislature.

Yes, the Georgia legislature — with nearly unanimous support from the Republicans who control both houses and the Governor’s mansion — voted to raise property taxes for this year and the foreseeable future.

Starting this year, the average homeowner will pay $250 more a year on their property taxes. A tax hike – not tax relief.

How’d they do it? The Republican House and Senate, aided by Gov. Sonny Perdue, eliminated the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant.

If you look at your tax bill from a couple of years ago, it says in bold letters at the top that your taxes were reduced thanks to the state of Georgia. This year, they’ve said, “Never mind.”

Hundreds of millions of dollars continue to flow to corporations without accountability through tax breaks and exemptions that the Department of Revenue admits it cannot track. But at home, taxpayers are getting a nasty surprise.

In Powder Springs, the city government must plug a $239,000 hole from the elimination of HTRG. For the tiny town of Leesburg, the hit is $24,900. In Fulton County, the gap is $6.5 million. These are dollars taxpayers were promised would be returned to them, but Republicans are reneging on that promise.

All across Georgia, homeowners are watching their taxes go up while Republicans propose more tax cuts for companies that export jobs to other states. The hope is that with placebos like training courses for tax assessors, we won’t notice a half-billion dollar tax increase.

Trouble is, like most shell games, the con man is winning. We taxpayers have let ourselves be duped by the sleight of hand. And this legislature is very, very good at playing its citizens.

Watch us pass legislation to outlaw the implantation of microchips and stop the scourge of cockfighting and ignore gridlock. Rally on the steps of the Capitol while we demand fiscal accountability, despite the fact that our own auditors admit that we’re missing millions in taxes already paid by citizens to companies. Get angry about school boards raising your property taxes because we slashed nearly billions from education.

This year, Georgia’s government must make a choice. Either continue to cater to special interests with tax breaks on symphony halls and sports museums or get back to basics.

Like any shell game, someone is going to lose. If the Homeowners Tax Relief Grant stays gone and corporate tax breaks continue, then homeowners will be the suckers at the table when the game is over.

[Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone) is serving his fourth term in the 66th House District. The district includes parts of Fayette and Fulton Counties in south metro Atlanta. He serves on the Ways and Means, Regulated Industries, Small Business, and Banking Committees. He is also chair of the Economic Development Policy Committee and co-chair of the Working Families Legislative Caucus.]