On the Record: Tax system should be fair to all

Lower taxes to spur investments in Georgia, give voters transportation projects to vote on and require timely ethics disclosures from legislators.

State Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), a key player in tax policy, talked to WSB-AM and the AJC on Tuesday about taxes, property appraisal equity, transportation and ethics.

Q: Where are we on property tax reform?

A: How do we fix a problem that I think the general public perceives as just simply unfair tax system? Because it has none of the hallmarks of good taxes and again it’s not transparent, it’s not easy to understand, it’s not equally applied and people just generally don’t believe that it’s fair ... We’d like to have year-round appeals. We’d like to have automatic notices of assessment go to every property owner, every year. So that, that right to appeal is guaranteed.

Q: Isn’t there something you’re looking at as far as taxing only the purchase value?

A: So what I’d like to do is at least establish that when you purchase a piece of property in an arms-length transaction, that for the next taxing period that, that be the established value.

Q: Some suggest we ought to raise taxes or fees to close the budget deficit. Why is that not a good idea?

A: I think you can generate more tax revenue, if that’s the problem, by growing the economy ... I hear this statement over and over again about these special tax breaks, special tax exemptions. What’s somewhat puzzling to me is that no one ever lists an example ... The biggest special tax break we have is not charging a sales tax on food. Now are the people who are against these so-called evil tax breaks suggesting we ought to put sales tax back on food? ... Maybe there are some of them we should get rid of. But just to throw out the suggestion that they’re all bad I think misses the point.

Q: What about tax cuts? Is that on the agenda?

A: It is, if you think about the Georgia capital gains tax it’s really in a sense unfair compared to what we pay on a federal level ... So if we were even to just put ourselves in line with the federal government you would suggest that we lower it 50 percent.

Q: When you talk to investors, there are two things they talk about, transportation and education ... What are you all going to do about that?

A: It’s important for people to remember, we’re number one in the Southeast in teacher pay. We’re number one in the Southeast per student funding of education. We’re number one in the Southeast in lowest student/teacher ratio ... The question is, is the investment into education giving us the result that we should expect?

Q: Transportation?

A: What we do need to look at ... is a local SPLOST model where the voters can go to the ballot box, look at the list of projects and say, OK, I drive that road every day, I understand the traffic on that road ... I’d like to widen it. If it’s on that list I’m going to vote for it because I know the results of my investment.

Q: Should the Legislature ban gifts from lobbyists?

A: I don’t know what the ultimate impact of that would be. I think if you look at some of the other states who have done that they’ve struggled with it. But if you can make it work where it removes influence that a lobbyist may have over a legislator, then I think that or any other idea is a good idea. But at the end of the day I think the ultimate decision is to be made by the voters and the best way to allow them to make the decision is to have full and complete disclosure.

Q: Would you support toughening up the sanctions on people who are not disclosing in a timely fashion so voters can see that information and make those decisions?

A: We need to make sure that the filing of the reports is done in a way that is able to be accomplished so that the information is then given to the voters. And then if those deadlines are not met then yes, absolutely, there needs to be a penalty and there needs to be — that needs to be known among voters that certain individuals simply don’t file reports.

A weekly event where reporters and editors talk to leaders about key issues for Georgians. Excerpts from the conversation, printed here, also can be heard on News/Talk 750 WSB.