RINCON — District 25 State Sen. Burt Jones isn’t particularly interested in government giveaways. He’s got a takeaway on his mind.
Jones, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, wants to eliminate the state income tax. He thinks it’s doable and has strong evidence to prove it.
“I’m not trying to recreate the wheel here,” said Jones, a Butts County resident. “We’ve got examples of other states that have done it. Your neighbors to the south in Florida and our neighbors to the north in Tennessee do not have a state income tax. Texas, a state we always compete with for economic development projects, doesn’t have one, as well as other states (Alaska, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming).”
The individual income tax is Georgia’s top revenue source, generating 40-45 percent of the state’s total revenue.
“My philosophy is simply this: We have been giving out incentives and tax credits to large corporations for the past decade,” Jones said. “Some of them have been good moves and some of them probably don’t have a huge economic impact so the first thing I want to do is prioritize our tax code and move toward eliminating the state income tax. I think there is a clear way to get to three percent by eliminating a lot of those credits and incentives that we have been doling out, and putting them back into small businesses and families, and then look at other ways to transition away from having any income tax at all.
“I say all that to say that you won’t be able to do in one year. You need to have prioritize it and have a plan in place to get rid of it over a three- or four-year period.”
Jones isn’t getting resistance from voters.
“People like the idea of having fewer taxes to pay,” he said.
Jones is confident that voters also share his view about public safety. He supports local and state law enforcement officers, and increasing funding and resources for other first responders.
“We’ve got to do more to help recruit and retain people,” Jones said. “There are things that I have been working on at the state Senate level to help out, particularly in the smaller communities. I here in Butts County and our sheriff is experiencing the same thing that your sheriff is as far as having a shortage of people and manpower.”
Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie recently reported that his office has 28 unfilled jobs.
“Number one, it’s a tough profession. It’s a dangerous,” Jones said. “Number two, the risk and the reward (salary) don’t match. That’s the reason a lot of people aren’t going in to law enforcement.
“We need to do more to try help improve the pay structures and the state is going to need to step in to do that or improve benefits packages.”
Jones, a former University of Georgia football defensive back (2001-02) who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said he has told sheriffs on the campaign trail that resolving their problems will be a priority if he is elected.
The candidate also ranks education high on his list of concerns. Both his parents started their careers as public school teachers.
“I am very aware of how tough being a public educator is and I am a big proponent of public education,” he said. “Look, (education) represents sixty percent of our state budget, too. With sixty percent of a $30 billion budget, (Georgia) ought to be ranked in the top 10 (in education). That’s where I want Georgia to be.
“It can’t be one size fits all because every county isn’t the same. I am a big school choice person where that opportunity fits.”
Jones wants more skills-based learning. He is a proponent of college and career academies. Eight of the nine counties in his district have one.
Regarding other issues, Jones supports a statewide probe into 2020 election irregularites and a legal immigration system that puts the lives and livelihoods of Georgians first and foremost.