Every year after the legislative session ends, I send out a newsletter to constituents reporting on the activities of our session and asking for feedback on issues important to them.
Although not scientific, the results of the survey are always interesting and give my fellow legislators and me an idea of where we need to be concentrating.
This year I asked two questions. The first question dealt with tax reform, which was discussed by the legislature and, although not acted on this year, remains an issue that will be addressed in the future. Specifically I asked “Would you support or oppose eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a broad based sales tax?”
Of the 237 responses that I received, 162 said that they would support such a proposal, 61 were opposed and 14 did not choose an answer.
One of the supporters of a broad-based sales tax said “Yes, I want sales tax for this and for education. Home owners cannot continue to pay for all public education with property tax! Apartment renters should contribute — sales tax would do it.”
Another supporter said “…with sales tax everyone would have to pay if they purchase anything in the state, whereas some never pay income tax.”
In opposition to this proposal one person wrote “those with higher incomes will not be impacted as severely as lower incomes. Taxes on goods and services hurt people with lower incomes.”
The second question I asked was “Please tell me what concerns your family the most.”
The most popular response to this question was the national deficit and out of control spending by government.
One respondent said that the thing that concerns his family the most was “... government debt - I’m not allowed to spend recklessly and neither should government.” Another said his main concern was “Socialism — you cannot outspend your income and remain stable.” Still another said “Legislature spending money we do not have or for things we really don’t need and excess employees doing state duties — we need to spend less…”
The second most popular response was high taxes. As one person put it “the problem is not just income tax. Add all the taxes we pay together, i.e. sales, property, income, social security, etc. and the average citizen pays up to half of his income in taxes — eliminate some forms of taxation!”
The next few items mentioned were about even in the number of responses — inflation, the economy, health care, jobs, gas prices and retiree issues (social security, cost of living, etc.).
One respondent said “my main concern is rising taxes, gas and food - and income not keeping up with these increases.” Or as another person put it “wages are not keeping up with the cost of living.”
Another said his primary concern was “the economy and the lack of concern for it by some legislators.”
Still another said “do whatever is necessary to improve the economy and create JOBS!” One respondent was more to the point - “my main concern? Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and Jobs.”
Most of the comments on health care were focused on the pending national health care legislation and the unknown consequences.
In the case of gas prices, there appeared to be no unknowns — “my main concern is tax breaks for big oil,” one person wrote.
Another said his main concern was “America’s total dependence on oil for energy.”
Other areas of concern were public schools, illegal immigration and budget cuts.
Interestingly, at least to me, was the lack of mention of transportation issues. Only five respondents listed traffic or roads as one of their primary concerns.
Included in the “other” category were a number of issues that were mentioned at least once — the gambling machines in our service stations and convenience stores, drug testing for welfare and food stamp recipients and the lack of parenting/accountability in our society.
Thanks to all those who took time out to respond. Our government, whether local, state or federal, depends on an engaged electorate who make sure their voices are heard.
Sen. Buddy Carter can be reached at Coverdell Legislative Office Building (CLOB) Room 301-A, Atlanta, GA, 30334. His Capitol office number is (404) 656-5109.