Senate leader wants Georgians to get tax credits for writing checks to police

Following the opening of the 2020 Georgia General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions on January 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)
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Following the opening of the 2020 Georgia General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions on January 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A day after Georgia House Speaker David Ralston proposed a $75 million crime-fighting package including bonuses for local police, his Senate counterpart released a plan that would cost more than three times as much.

Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate president, said Thursday that he wants the General Assembly to create a $250 million state tax credit, essentially allowing Georgians and corporations to target taxes they would normally pay into the state treasury to law enforcement.

When Duncan was serving in the Georgia House he passed a similar tax credit aimed at pumping money into struggling rural hospitals, and his latest proposal is modeled after that.

Republicans have jumped on Atlanta’s rise in murders to make fighting violent crime a cornerstone of their 2022 election strategy up and down the ballot. Duncan is not running for re-election, but 2022 is a big test for the GOP after Democrats won the presidential race and two U.S. Senate seats in the past year.

Duncan said his plan will be called the Law Enforcement Strategic Support “LESS Crime” Act and be the focus of his legislative agenda during the 2022 session.

“It should be no surprise that every state leader is concerned with the exponential rise in crime here in Georgia, especially in our capital city,” Duncan said in a release. “Rising crime is affecting individuals, businesses, and Georgia families, and combatting this problem will not be accomplished by one solution alone.

“My goal is to bolster law enforcement agencies across our state by giving each community the tools necessary to prevent and stop crime. Big problems call for big solutions.”

Duncan wants to let Georgians and corporations get their state income tax bills reduced for writing a check directly to their local police or sheriff’s office. The tax credits would be capped at $5,000 per individual, $10,000 per married couple and 75% of a corporation’s tax liability.

Police and sheriffs’ offices would be required to allocate the money to raise pay, hire more officers and increase training.

Duncan estimated the state would lose about $250 million worth of income tax revenue a year from the plan.

Georgia just had record tax collections during the fiscal year that ended June 30, although the income tax take was padded by federal payments and a booming stock market, and officials don’t expect that kind of revenue growth to continue this year.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, on Wednesday announced a proposal to provide local police and sheriffs’ employees a $1,000 bonus and increase funding for law enforcement and mental health programs.

Gov. Brian Kemp this week announced he would include crime-fighting legislation in his call for a special session this fall. Lawmakers are already scheduled to return for a special session to redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries to conform to the 2020 Census.

Atlanta had a historically deadly 2020, when authorities investigated 157 homicide cases — the most in more than two decades. This year, as of June, homicides had increased in Atlanta by more than 50% and shootings had increased by 40% compared to the same time period in 2020.