Sam Olens reflects on the 2009 Legislative Session
President Barack Obama’s stimulus package is bad unless it helps balance the State budget; property tax reform is needed but not accomplished; trauma funds are essential but not approved; water conservation and supply was a non-issue; transportation funding and MARTA were left in the dark; a win for the Governor on Georgia Department of Transportation governance; and confirmation of last year’s homeowners tax relief grant with a huge property tax increase later this year.
So let’s be happy that the Session is over.
With help from the President’s stimulus package, the General
Assembly approved the supplemental Fiscal Year 2009 budget and Fiscal Year 2010. Clearly, this was not an easy task even with the Stimulus funds.
With much pressure from local elected officials, the homeowner tax
relief grant was re-established per HB 143, but is highly unlikely for
the next couple of years due to the recession. Of note is language in the bill that precludes notice of the unavailability of the credit on
future tax bills!
So when homeowners get the property tax bill with a higher amount due, expect a separate notice in the envelope from your local government explaining the real cause of the higher tax due.
As the homeowner tax relief grant was statutory and not
through a constitutional amendment, any new trauma funds must be guaranteed per a constitutional amendment.
On the issue of property tax reform, numerous attempts were
unsuccessful in revising local government finance. The approved three-year assessment moratorium is of little value as properties are decreasing in value.
Suggestions include a state-wide homeowners floating exemption with no millage cap and binding arbitration for all property appeals rather than the Board of Equalization, similar to HB240. Repeal of the 1/4 mill property tax would also be helpful.
More interesting was SB 200, the Georgia Department of Transportation governance bill, which gives the Governor the ability to appoint a Planning Director with much power and permits the Commissioner to appoint senior staff.
A better bill would have given the Governor the authority to appoint the GDOT Commissioner and senior staff without creating the Planning Director.