Teacher furloughs are bad for Georgia’s students, but with the current economic woes you may think there is no choice. Think again.
Last session, I co-sponsored HB 356, which allows for the collection of sales tax at the point of sale. Thus allowing local governments to collect their own, as well as the state’s sales taxes, instead of the Department of Revenue. Had this bill been allowed out of committee by the Republican leadership it would have brought in an additional $1 billion in revenue without raising taxes or fees. It was not like this was an experimental or untried idea. Alabama has already passed a similar bill which, when implemented, brought them an additional $1 billion without raising taxes.
HB 356 enables local control, something Republicans ran on and then promptly ran from. The death of the Point of Sales bill is just the latest in a line of bad economic choices that the Republican leadership has allowed due to its adversarial relationship with local governments and its willingness to cut education. Local communities, not the state, would do a much more efficient job of collecting sales taxes. The Department of Revenue, by its own admission, leaves millions of uncollected taxes on the table every year.
Acting as a watchdog, local governments could catch tax cheats in their own communities. Local governments would also get revenue much faster under this plan. Disbursement of sales tax revenue would get to local governments the same month it is collected, giving them and the state not only more funds, but faster access to funds they need to continue providing critical services to our citizens.
So why didn’t the Republican leadership pass HB 356 out of committee? Furloughs and across the board cuts are the status quo. They require no new thinking nor innovation. They take no work to implement, nor complex strategies to fund. There is no real accountability to the politician as responsibility for the cuts get passed on to the agencies. For lack of a better word, they are easy. Georgia does not deserve, nor can she afford the easy way out. We have had over a year to identify the problem. It is time for politicians to quit bemoaning the obvious, get to work and start offering solutions. HB 356 is a solution.
The Republican leadership in Georgia cut $1.6 billion to education when we had money. It should come as no surprise that furloughing teachers was one of the first places they would go. When they allowed HB 356 to die in committee this Republican leadership showed once again — education is not their priority. If it is yours, now is the time to stand up for Georgia’s future by calling for a special session to push for the passage of HB356, allowing for the work necessary to prevent furloughs to teachers and other state employees.
Rep. DuBose Porter is a Democratic candidate for governor in 2010.