Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Repealing tax a ruse to help big landowners

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 5:00 PM

In my column this week, I make a point midway that's worth repeating:

You may have heard [Gov. Sonny] Perdue beating his chest, proclaiming he is pushing a constitutional amendment to eliminate a tiny 0.25 mil property tax that goes to the state. Is Perdue doing this, as he boasts, for beleaguered homeowners? Hardly. The real reason is that the small tax empowers the state Department of Revenue to ensure counties assess property at fair market value. Without the tax, the department has no role in assuring fair assessments. Thus, politically powerful industries -- my bet is the timber business and/or utilities -- pushed the amendment. If passed, these corporations will be able to lean on local officials to get sweetheart assessments -- sticking common folks with the taxes the industries dodge.

The mainstream press -- especially the AJC -- needs to stop treating this as some sort of predictable Republican chop-away-at-taxes plan. It ain't. The Republicans will certainly use the proposal to bolster their anti-tax mantra. But even some of the dimmer bulbs under the Gold Dome know the score. Perdue's purpose is to take away state enforcement that property assessments be fair. In rural counties, and some urban ones, where industries can snap their fingers and watch local officials jump, assessments will be manipulated so corporations can avoid taxes. Common citizens -- you -- will pay.

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