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A GREAT debate for Springfield council
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Members of the Springfield City Council discussed state Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson’s “GREAT Plan” to deal with local tax issues last Tuesday.

Mayor Barton Alderman said the plan is set to go through the legislature next year and is still undergoing revisions.

The Georgia Municipal Association has a form for municipal councils to pass a resolution opposing the GREAT Plan.

“This is taking a stand against the GREAT Plan as proposed,” Alderman said.

Alderman said he appreciates that the state is attempting to do something about property taxes, “but I’m not convinced this is the way to go.”

Councilman Dennis Webb said he has been following the plan since Richardson first introduced it and has heard a lot of people speak against it.

“Speaker Richardson’s reason for proposing it is that Georgia has changed from a land based economy to a service based economy, and you’re still taxing based on the land part of it,” Webb said. “GMA’s take is it’s going to take power away from the municipalities, and the state is collecting the money, and the state is going to have the responsibility for dividing it up and sending it back to us, and we would have very little say so.

“Now, if we want to argue tax issues, we have six of us here plus the mayor, and if they take it away from us we’ll have Jon Burns arguing with 159 however many representatives there are. It will be hard for us to have control over our destiny.”

Webb said the plan has changed several times and he still hasn’t seen all the details.

“I was talking to Rep. Burns the other day and the way he addresses it is the devil’s in the details, and he’s exactly right,” Webb said. “The idea sounds good to me. I’m real worried about the details.”

Webb said from what he knows of the plan now he would be against it, but GMA is working to kill the plan,
and he would prefer to see it negotiated more.

“We do need to look long range at funding issues and switching from a land-based taxation to some other form,” he said. “I’m real concerned about the way it’s set up right now.”

Alderman said he read that all the tax money would be sent to Atlanta, and the city would have no control over how much comes back.

Webb said Alderman was correct.

Councilman Charles Hinely said what he does not understand is how sales tax revenue will be increased to cover the difference.

Councilman Kenny Usher said things that are not currently taxed will begin being taxed.

“What they’re not talking about is it’s going to be in business to business transactions that are not taxed now, which means Billy Bob over here is manufacturing widgets for Joe Bob’s company over here,” Usher said. “Well, when you sale that item over here for him to assemble it, he’s having to pay sales tax there, so when he takes it he’s also going to have to charge sales tax for it as well. It’s going to jack up your prices and all. It’s going to push people to Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee for their large scale purchases.”

Hinely asked why the details of replacing revenue were not released when the plan was announced.

“If he wants to tack a 50 cent tax on gasoline, I’m not going for that either,” he said.

“I think something ought to be done to the tax code federal and state level, but I don’t know that this is what we ought to jump on the bandwagon with.”

Alderman said there are several services that are currently not taxed that will be taxed under the plan.

Hinely said if the plan is placed on the ballot it will pass “because they’re going to put no property tax.” He said the voters don’t have to make the budgets for the cities and schools and will only think about not having property taxes.

“I’d like to have no property tax, but then Michael Moore used to say if you exempt senior citizens, somebody’s got to pay that tax,” Hinely said.

Hinely said he would be “inclined” to kill the bill and start over with a new plan.

Alderman said his concern is if the plan is stopped that the hope for tax relief could die with this plan.

Webb said he asked to invite Burns to council to speak about the plan.

“We need to take a stand, and all those questions everybody said, they’re valid and I’m worried about them,” Webb said. “I think, let’s hear as much information as we can.”

Webb also suggested working on a resolution that addresses the concerns council has with the plan.

The council voted to invite Burns to the next meeting to talk about the plan.