Tuesday, September 1, 2009

State Senator Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) Slams Perdue & Majority Party in the General Assembly

Valdosta Daily Times reporting: State Sen. Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) said Monday that local officials are correct in placing the blame for higher property tax bills on the Gov. Sonny Perdue administration and the majority of the Georgia General Assembly because of their action during the 2009 session to eliminate the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) program.

Responding to a news release from the City of Valdosta, which forewarns homeowners of an increase in their property taxes this year, Golden said the decision to end HTRG funding to city and county governments will result in the largest property tax increase in Georgia history, causing a $200-$300 property tax increase for the average Georgia homeowner.

“While Gov. Perdue had originally proposed eliminating HTRG funding retroactive to last year, the majority leadership in the legislature instead passed House Bill 143, which kept the grants in place only for fiscal year 2009,” Golden explained. “The funding would have remained for future years only if state revenues grew by necessary percentages, and the bill’s authors knew beyond any doubt that would not happen this year. So, the HTRG is gone, and the property tax bills for homeowners are going to be considerably higher.”

Golden noted the Senate passed HB 143 by a vote of 29-24, the minimum number of votes needed to send the measure to the governor for his signature.

“I voted against the bill,” Golden said. “Ending the HTRG is, unfortunately, a continuation of this administration’s long-standing policy of shifting the tax burden to the local property owner through continued cuts in funding to local school systems and unfunded mandates on local governments. This tax increase comes at a time when many Georgia families have had to deal with job losses and are struggling to pay their mortgage and other household bills.”

Golden said he was in favor of a legislative proposal that could have prevented elimination of the HTRG program. HB 356 would have given local governments the power to recoup sales tax revenues that have gone uncollected. A similar program in Alabama was successful in collecting more than $1 billion, which would be more than enough to fund the $420 million needed for the homeowner tax relief grants. The majority leadership in the legislature, however, kept both proposals buried in committee.

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