The Jolt: Reality check on GOP proposals to eliminate the state income tax

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cash register drawer (lamprey / E+ / Getty Images)

Credit: lamprey

Credit: lamprey

Cash register drawer (lamprey / E+ / Getty Images)

It’s a populist message for sure: eliminate Georgia’s income tax that charges residents up to 5.75% of their salary to fund the state government.

Earlier it was Georgia Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, a candidate for lieutenant governor, who announced he would back such a sweeping change. So did former Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones, who is running for governor. Republican activist Jeanne Seaver, who is running for lieutenant governor, said she would increase the state sales tax to replace the income tax.

Now, former Sen. David Perdue, who is also challenging incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP primary, said he wants to do the same.

“There are ways to pay for it, and other states have accomplished that,” Perdue told the AJC this week. “I’ll work with the Legislature on it – instead of fighting with them – to make this a reality.”

But the AJC’s budget wonk James Salzer provides us a reality check: The income tax brings in more than half of all revenue for k-12 schools, colleges, public health, criminal investigations, prisons, and mental health programs. And neither Perdue nor Miller have said what they would do to make up for the $14 billion a year in lost revenue by either cutting spending or raising money another way, such as hiking the sales tax.

In fact, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, an Auburn Republican, had strong words about the proposal.

“Well, you either eliminate K-12 education – that’s about what we put into it – or if you don’t want to do away with that, I think you would wind up with a 17% state sales tax rate to offset the loss of revenue, if you don’t change the base,” he told Salzer.

The state sales tax is currently 4%. Local municipalities often add onto that, which is why what you pay on your tab varies even around metro Atlanta.

Another reality check is needed on the comparisons between Georgia and its no-state-income-tax neighbor to the South. It’s not quite apples to apples.

Florida per capita spending is lower than Georgia in many areas. For example, Florida spent $9,645 per K-12 student in 2019, compared to Georgia’s $11,228.

The tax bases are also much different. Florida has 21.5 million residents compared to Georgia’s 10.6 million. Factor in that Florida is a bigger tourism draw, and you have many more sales-tax-paying folks than Georgia can consider when it comes to making revenue predictions.

That just scratches the surface about the difference between the two states. Declaring “Georgia could be like Florida” is much easier said than done.


The cavalry has arrived. That was the mood in the room Wednesday night when the Committee for a United Atlanta held a high-profile, high-dollar fundraiser in Buckhead.

About 200 people showed up for the $1,000-per-person ticket event, which attracted business bigwigs, elected leaders, and local supporters of the campaign to oppose Buckhead cityhood.

The biggest name in the room was mayor-elect Andre Dickens, who told the crowd about his plans to keep the city he’s about to lead together as one.

“One city, one future,” he said to loud applause.

Also on hand were Eric Tanenblatt, with the Buckhead Coalition, leaders from the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, City Council President-elect Doug Shipman, former City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and lawmakers who represent Buckhead and Atlanta— and uniformly oppose the idea of breaking up Atlanta, including state Sen. Sonya Halpern, state Rep. Betsy Holland and state Rep. Shae Roberts.

The first test for the group will come in one month when the Georgia General Assembly gavels in for its 2022 session and considers a bill from Republicans outside of Atlanta to put the question of cityhood on the November ballot for Buckhead residents.

Chatter abounded in the room about former senator-turned-GOP-governor hopeful David Perdue, who told the AJC Wednesday he supports a vote to separate Buckhead from Atlanta. Perdue’s move could pressure Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP lawmakers to match Perdue’s rightward march and do the same.

Mitchell said the future of Buckhead and Atlanta isn’t about a “divorce” or “civil war,” as it’s been described in the national press.

“It’s about fighting to make sure our neighbors understand and believe that Atlanta is a place for them, that a united Atlanta is a place they want to live, and that we’re better together,” he said.

Read more about it here.


Key dividing lines have quickly emerged in the Republican race for governor.

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue supports a referendum on Buckhead cityhood, while Gov. Brian Kemp has stayed neutral on the issue.

Perdue also called for the elimination of the state income tax and the roughly $14 billion each year it generates, while Kemp’s campaign called his rival’s stance “empty campaign rhetoric.”

Perdue said he wouldn’t have certified the November 2020 election results and would have called a special legislative session to investigate absentee votes, even though there was no evidence of voter fraud after multiple tallies and an audit of mail-in votes in Cobb County.

Kemp certified the election because it was required by law, a step that cleared the way for legal challenges brought by pro-Trump forces who leveled lies about rampant fraud.

As for the special session, the governor rejected Donald Trump’s demands to summon legislators back to Atlanta because he said it would have led to “endless” litigation.


The Fair Fight Action political organization started by Stacey Abrams has new leadership now that its founder is running for governor.

Cianti Stewart-Reid will now serve as the organization’s executive director, while incoming board chair Salena Jegede will preside over the newly expanded board of directors.

Both Jegede and Stewart-Reid previously served as managing directors of Fair Fight Action, the voting rights juggernaut launched by Abrams as she ended her 2018 campaign.

Lauren Groh-Wargo, the group’s former executive director, will serve as an adviser for the group’s federal and non-Georgia work. She’s now working as Abrams’ campaign manager.

Tax records show the group reported raising about $51 million in 2020 and about $104 million in the roughly three years since it was started.


Georgia WIN List came out with a slate of endorsements Wednesday, including Stacey Abrams for governor, state Sen. Jen Jordan for attorney general, state Rep. Bee Nguyen for secretary of state, and Nicole Horn for labor commissioner.

Georgia’s answer to EMILY’s List is designed to elected pro-choice, Democratic women to office. It’s also been a key training ground for women looking to get involved in politics — several of whom have now been elected and are seeking even higher office.


Democrat Bee Nguyen is also touting the endorsements of Gwinnett County officials Thursday, saying the county will be a key to her campaign for secretary of state.

The endorsements come from state legislators, county commissioners and a school board member. They include state Sens. Michelle Au, Kim Jackson, Nikki Merritt and Sheikh Rahman, 10 state representatives from Gwinnett and school board Chairman Everton Blair.

Gwinnett is Georgia’s second-most populous county, where Democrats flipped a seat in Congress last year and supported Joe Biden for president.


Atlanta school board Chairman Jason Esteves plans to run for Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan’s Georgia Senate seat, a left-leaning district which spans parts of Fulton and Cobb counties.

Esteves, also the treasurer of the state Democratic party, first floated the idea weeks ago and quickly earned the support of a group of state legislators.


David Perdue hopped on the Doug Collins Show earlier this week to speak with his former Georgia delegation colleague about his challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp.

Perdue told the ex-congressman that the key reason he didn’t make a Senate comeback bid was because he “couldn’t see how to get the Trump loyalists back out, even if I’m running, if I’m running next to Brian Kemp.”

That could pose problems to Senate GOP frontrunner Herschel Walker, Perdue suggested.

“This is a reality that Herschel faces. It’s a reality we face. So, one of the benefits of me getting in is I’m going to work hard to make sure we bring everybody back together in November to elect, not just the governor, but to make sure we get that Senate back.”


From the personnel department, Rachel Ledbetter is moving on from her role as communications director for U.S. Rep. Austin Scott to join the comms team at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Scott’s new communications director, Alex Enlow, will take over for Ledbetter next week.


What is a millennial? That was the question and the answer last night, when Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff did what few Georgians his age have ever achieved — he was a Jeopardy clue.

Born in 1987, Ossoff is also the first of his Millennial generation to get elected to the U.S. Senate, as the iconic quiz show pointed out.

Contestant Sam got the correct response and Ossoff’s office responded this way on Twitter: “We’ve made it guys.”


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and

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