Senate pushes tax cut

By Camie Young

Staff Writer



ATLANTA - Legislative Republicans moved to cut taxes and spending during Crossover Day at the General Assembly.

Two proposed constitutional amendments passed the state Senate on Monday, the day bills had to clear at least one chamber of the legislature to remain active for this year's session.

If the House accepts the tax bill and voters approve it at the polls this fall, Georgians 62 and older would not have to pay taxes on retirement income up to $75,000 a year. The measure also would cut all income taxes on seniors 70 and older up to $100,000.

"I believe Georgia has a lot to gain economically by moving in this direction,'' said Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, the amendment's sponsor.

Tax cuts approved by the legislature in 2003 that gradually phase out income taxes for seniors will go into effect in 2009.

Originally, Cagle asked for a retirement cap of $50,000 for taxpayers 62 and older and the elimination of taxes on those 65 and older, but senators amended the provision in an attempt to draw wealthier retirees from Florida.

Meanwhile, shortly after Monday's vote, several influential Republican senators introduced a resolution to study putting spending limits on the state budget.

Across the country, 27 states have imposed tax spending limitations.

"It truly is the people's money,'' said Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock. "(This) will allow the citizens of Georgia to tell us how much of their money we can spend."

If the resolution passes, a five-member panel of senators would study the issue this summer and develop a proposal for the Senate to take up next year.

Herman Cain, a wealthy businessman who ran an unsuccessful race for U.S. Senate two years ago, joined the leaders at a press conference Monday to support the idea.

"This is an issue we need to get out in front of,'' he said, adding that taking a state-by-state approach could also put pressure on federal representatives to restrict spending in Washington.

Another proposal from Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, would restrict spending in the annual midyear budget except for the annual reallocation of education funds based on school enrollment growth. All other changes in spending would have to be accepted by a two-thirds majority of legislators in both chambers.

Shafer said the amendment would reduce "pork-barrel'' spending and force officials to make more accurate revenue projections when the original budget is devised.

"Now Republicans are in charge,'' Shafer said. "The supplemental budget should not be used for pork.''

Shafer's constitutional amendment passed the Senate Monday and now moves to the House. Like the senior tax break, the bill would have to get approval from voters before it becomes law.