Georgia House panel quickly backs new income tax cut

State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, sponsored legislation that would cut taxes for Georgians who use the standard deduction. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, sponsored legislation that would cut taxes for Georgians who use the standard deduction. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A House panel on Wednesday approved a state income cut tax for Georgians who use the standard deduction when they file their returns, acting a few days after the measure was introduced.

House Bill 593, sponsored by House Ways and Means Chairman Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, is backed by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and it is being moved quickly to meet a deadline for bills to pass at least one chamber to remain alive for the 2021 session. That deadline is expected to be set for late next week.

By reducing the amount of income taxed, House Bill 593 would cut what’s owed by millions of Georgians who use the standard deduction when they fill out their returns.

“We are doing some tax relief without a lot of moving parts,” Blackmon said. “I think if we are able to move this forward, giving some people some tax relief would be good right now.”

While the tax cut would be relatively small — less than $100 for a married couple filing jointly — Blackmon told colleagues it would cost the state between $100 million and $150 million a year. And, particularly if Congress passes a massive new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package — which would include more state aid — a much larger state tax cut may be on the way.

Under Blackmon’s bill, the standard deduction for a single taxpayer would increase by $800, for a married couple filing a joint return $1,100. Georgians over 65 or blind would get an additional $1,300 deduction.

Just before the General Assembly suspended the 2020 session as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ralston pushed a plan to reduce the state income tax rate, a move that would have saved taxpayers $250 million. That tax cut went by the wayside because by the time lawmakers returned in June to finish the session, they feared revenue would plunge.

Ralston made cutting taxes a signature issue for House Republicans last fall as they worked to hold off Democratic attempts to retake control of the chamber in the November elections.

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