On Jan. 10, 2011, Nathan Deal will be sworn in as the 82nd governor of the state of Georgia.
While this is, no doubt, a historic event in our state’s history, it may well be the least significant event of the day.
Not to take anything away from the former state senator and U.S. Congressman’s political achievement of reaching our state’s highest office, but consider these other events taking place that same day:
For the first time in our state’s history, all statewide officers being sworn in that day will be from the Republican Party.
Fourteen newly-elected Senate members and 35 newly elected House members will be sworn in, representing one of the largest turnover of members in our legislature’s history.
The long awaited report of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians will be presented to the lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.
While some may argue that a new governor trumps these other events, a closer look tells a different story.
Thus far, Gov-elect Deal has made few changes to the existing structure of state agencies. While a few department heads have been replaced, the majority have been retained signifying to many observers that the Gov-elect intends to keep the status quo.
Unlike his predecessor, Gov. Sonny Perdue, who eight years ago became Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Gov-elect Deal inherits an established Republican administration.
Such is not the case for many of our statewide officers being sworn in on Jan. 10. While the fact that they are all Republicans is indeed significant, some, such as Attorney General Sam Olens, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black will be the first Republicans to serve in those offices. Major changes in those offices can be expected.
Perhaps the most intriguing of these is Gary Black, who will be replacing Tommy Irvin, the longest serving commissioner of Agriculture in the U.S. as well as the longest serving statewide official in Georgia, who has been in office for 40 years.
The 14 newly elected Senate members and 35 newly elected House members are significant not only for their numbers but also for the fact that Republican caucuses in both chambers will now be very close to having a constitutional majority.
With 114 Republican House members — two open seats will be determined in February and are expected to be Republican bringing the total to 116 — and 36 Republican Senate members, the two-thirds votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment — 120 and 38 respectively — is very much in reach.
A super-majority such as this would be a major advantage for the majority Republican Party and would deal a serious blow to the minority Democratic Party.
But perhaps the most significant event of all on Jan. 10, 2011, will be the report of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for
As a result of HB 1405 that was passed last year by the legislature, the 11 member-council was charged with the mission of studying the state’s current tax revenue structure and making recommendations for changes.
Since early June, the council has held both formal meetings and fact finding sessions across the state in order to come up with proposals for a 21st century tax system that is pro-growth, job-friendly and fair for all citizens.
Currently 83 percent of Georgia’s tax revenue comes from personal and sales and use taxes. At a presentation to legislators in early December, the council indicated that they intended to propose beginning to replace those taxes with consumption taxes.
Top among these proposed consumption taxes is expected to be the return of taxes on groceries. Widely viewed as one of the fairest taxes, critics charge that it punishes the poor. Supporters of the tax point out that the poor receive food stamps and therefore don’t pay this tax.
Also being looked at carefully by the tax council is the various tax exemptions offered to attract and retain businesses in our state.
A new governor, new statewide officers, new House and Senate members and a report from the Tax Council on how to bring our state’s tax system in line with the 21st century — January 10, 2011, will be a historic day in our state indeed.