By Amy Wenk
Pending tax cuts and the possible rebirth of Milton County were hot topics when state Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) spoke to the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs on April 20.
The senator, whose district includes part of Sandy Springs, began his lecture with a passionate call to action.
“The American dream is at risk today,” Hill said. “We need to continue to fight for it. Don’t let anybody ever question you. Don’t let your family ever wonder why you didn’t fight to preserve the values and principles that ‘American’ represents.”
Elected to the Senate in 2004, Hill serves as deputy majority whip and vice chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus and on April 17 was reappointed chairman of the Georgia World Congress Center and Georgia Dome Authority Overview Committee.
“The General Assembly actually accomplished a lot of things this year,” he said.
Georgia, Hill said, now has the lowest per capita tax rate in the country.
“We are doing some great things to cut taxes,” Hill said, adding that legislators eliminated a $3.3 billion deficit from the state’s 2010 budget, which goes into effect July 1. “We have created a number of tax credits across the state.”
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute released a report critical of the tax cuts the same day Hill spoke to the Rotary Club. The institute, generally a proponent of more social spending and opponent of most tax cuts, said that if Gov. Sonny Perdue signs all the tax legislation sent to him this year, the state budget will face a $254 million revenue shortfall in fiscal 2011 and a $1.2 billion deficit in fiscal 2012.
The institute was particularly critical of House Bill 481, the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2009, whose passage Hill touted.
The legislation, which awaits the governor’s signature, would give businesses a credit of up to $500 toward their unemployment insurance taxes for each unemployed worker hired. The bill also offers a $2,400 income tax credit for each previously unemployed worker who is employed for at least two years.
The legislation will put people back to work, Hill said.
Additionally, HB 481 would help new businesses by waiving start-up fees for one year, eliminating the sales tax deposit, abolishing the corporate net worth tax and halving long-term capital gains taxes.
“Government is not the solution,” Hill said. “It never has been, nor will it ever be.”
The senator touched on HB 482, which will eliminate the state inventory tax on all businesses if signed into law.
He also talked about a tax credit of $1,800 for people who buy houses in the next six months, HB 261.
He added that if the governor signs House Bill 233, property tax assessments will be frozen through 2011. Hill said the change would come at a time when many residents are struggling and need such relief.
The 10 percent of state legislators who are tax scofflaws will be exposed under a new initiative, Hill said. “Once a year, we are going to require the revenue commissioner to report the names of the General Assembly members who fail to pay their taxes. We believe that it is important to pay your taxes and to be a responsible citizen.”
Hill addressed a question about the possibility of Milton County being re-created, something advocated by Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos and her peers in Roswell and Johns Creek, among others.
“We can’t go create another county unless we change the Constitution, which means everybody votes on it,” Hill said. “I think it’s going to be tough.”
Hill, who was a Senate sponsor of the legislation to incorporate Sandy Springs as a city, said the process would be similar. “We knew in Sandy Springs that the funding was going to work,” he said. “You got to be able to prove it, I think, that Milton can work the same way.
“There are a lot of people fighting for it, and I applaud it.”
But like Sandy Springs, he said, Milton County’s incorporation “could take decades.”