Rep. Ramsey: Fair Tax in Ga.’s future?
Sees move from ‘counter-productive’ income taxes to consumption-based tax
As the 2011 session of the General Assembly begins next week, Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) expects legislators will be grappling with the state economy, alternatives for taxation, immigration and the future of the HOPE scholarship.
State Senator Ronnie Chance (R-Tyrone) was also contacted for this report, but Chance did not return phone calls or respond to emails.
Ramsey said the good news is that Georgia continues to hold its AAA bond rating, one of only five states to do so in the lengthy recession. Yet Georgia must take the necessary actions to ensure that those conditions continue. And a big part of that will depend on the upcoming budget.
Gov. Deal is expected to present his revenue estimates sometime between mid to late January, Ramsey said, adding that the current $17 billion budget may well have to be cut another $1-2 billion if initial revenue estimates are correct.
“Some people are saying this will be the most difficult budgeting process we’ve gone through, where we will have to cut further and deeper,” Ramsey said, adding that, “The sense I’m getting is that there is a little more optimism for the next two to four years in where the economy is headed.”
In terms of Georgia’s 10 percent jobless rate, Ramsey said Georgia needs to be on the leading edge of job creation. Yet the job creation that leads to fewer unemployed residents and a more stable economy has been a hard nut to crack for legislatures across the nation.
Ramsey said he is waiting for the coming release of the Tax Reform Council’s report and the recommendations that will flow from it. Created last year by the General Assembly, the council was tasked with studying the state’s tax code.
And it is that tax code that Ramsey said needs to receive close attention by the General Assembly, with a portion of that attention geared to a form of taxation that is consumption-based.
“The notion of taxing income is counter-productive from an economic standpoint,” Ramsey said, adding that the tax code should be less reliant on revenues from business and individuals and more geared toward revenues based on consumption.
So the alternative, he said, could be something in the direction of some type of fair tax device, something that several others states have successfully implemented.
Another topic expected to loom large on the General Assembly’s radar this year is immigration.
“This is a big issue and one I’m personally involved with,” said Ramsey. He and Sen. Jack Murphy have worked collaboratively to introduce bills to continue to address the issues.
“It is very clear that there are significant social and economic consequences with the 450,000 illegal aliens in Georgia with a cost of $1-1.5 billion to state and local governments in Georgia,” Ramsey said. “We would be derelict in our duty if we didn’t address this issue. And it’s an important issue that’s going to be hotly debated because it brings out passions from both sides of the ideological spectrum.”
And on the issue of the HOPE scholarship, Ramsey said the program is becoming a victim of its own success since expenditures continue to exceed revenues. Ramsey cited a House Budget Office estimate that approximately $250 million in HOPE reserves will have to be used this year.
Those reserves totaled more than $1 billion in 2009, yet could shrink to around $300 million by 2012, Ramsey said.
Ramsey is in his third term in the House. He was appointed in the fall as House Chair of the Special Joint Committee on Immigration Reform.