Georgia State Capitol

Poll: Georgians oppose income tax cut if it means reducing spending

More than two-thirds of Georgians do not support an additional reduction in the top income tax rate that state lawmakers will consider this year when told it could mean cuts to programs for children, rural communities and low-income families, according to a recent poll.

Lawmakers during the 2020 legislative session will be asked to reduce the state’s top income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.5%. They cut it from 6% in 2018.

More than 75% of registered Georgia voters polled said they either oppose or strongly oppose the proposed tax cut if it means cutting funding for those programs, according to the results released by the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank. The poll was conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Respondents were asked, “Some legislators propose lowering Georgia’s top income tax rate even if it means that the state will need to scale back funding for programs that benefit children, rural communities, or low income families. Do you strongly support, support, oppose, or strongly oppose lowering taxes if it means spending cuts to these types of programs?”

The question was one of a series of prompts that outlined potential drawbacks of budget cuts.

A report released last year by the institute found that the tax cut would reduce state revenue — and save Georgians — about $550 million a year. That amounts to about $60 a year for a middle-income family, the report found.

“Georgians want a budget that can fund our shared priorities, and they understand that our state needs a balanced tax system that can adequately fund the critical programs and services so many families across our state depend on,” said Danny Kanso, an analyst for the institute who worked on the tax legislation the General Assembly passed in 2018 while serving as an aide to Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

The poll found that nearly 62% of those surveyed oppose cutting income taxes if it means raising the state sales tax. More than 47% of Georgians think lawmakers will need to implement new taxes and cut programs to make up for state revenue lost by decreasing the income tax rate.

The 2018 legislation was in reaction to the federal income tax measure that Congress passed in 2017.

While the congressional legislation cut federal income taxes, it had the potential to raise state income tax collections because it limited or eliminated some of the deductions Georgians used when figuring their state taxes and made it far more likely that taxpayers would use the standard federal deduction, rather than lowering their state taxable income using itemized deductions.

Without taking action, state officials thought it would have produced a windfall for the state. However, it’s unclear whether the federal law had the expected impact.

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