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Oglesby: Finances legit in campaign, but not mudslinging
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One political observation before delving into a potpourri of other current topics; I agree with Roy Barnes' claim that Nathan Deal's personal debt is a legitimate campaign issue. But it is only in the context of whether it signals indications that Deal might not be a good manager of the state's finances.

Continuing charges an opponents is corrupt is out of bounds for candidates with any sense of decency. Corruption charges can destroy a reputation that took a lifetime to build. That's a principal reason many well-qualified people won't run for office. Such is despicable, Mr. Barnes.

Most Georgians never have seen a statement by Tommie Williams, speaker pro-tem of the Georgia Senate, who was in the same class as Deal, elementary school through college. Quoting Williams' statement: "I know this man and have watched him since we were first-graders together. We went through elementary, high school and Mercer University together. He was in my wedding (though my wife was the star of that).

"During those years, I've never heard Nathan use a curse word, drink alcohol or use tobacco or say anything that was or could be construed as immoral, illegal, unethical or dishonest. I' m grateful Georgia is offered one of the best and most experienced of her citizens for it's highest office and who can serve with more devotion, care and carefulness."

Whether you're Democrat, Republican or whatever, you can avoid traditionally long election-day lines by early voting at the elections office on Brown's Bridge Road through the Friday before election day.

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Gainesville's proposed ordinance, already first-read, would require council members, department heads, supervisors, members of appointed boards, etc. to be completely current on taxes and fees such as city water and sewer, garbage, etc. If delinquent, they would have to wait until they become current before than can participate in matters before their body. The council believes the public would put more trust in matters hearing their usually conflicting positions if they knew the members hearing those positions if they knew they were current in their governmental obligations.

I applaud the intent but have one reservation that can be fixed before second reading. As a professional tax preparer, I have long advised many clients about a strategy that has saved them hundreds of dollars and suspect other professionals also have. Home mortgage interest, charitable contributions and taxes usually are their largest itemized deductions. These clients have owned their homes long enough that the portion of their mortgage payments that represent interest is increasingly smaller. Usually, the difference between those itemized deductions and their standard deduction are very close.

The strategy is to cram all deductible amounts possible into one year. These typically include not only those normally spent THAT year but also advance payments of or on the next year's deductible payments such as charitable, mortgage and property and state income taxes. This lets them use substantially higher itemized deduction.

The next year, they postpone as many deductible expenses into the following year as possible so they can again have heftier deductions. To do this postponing, they must delay paying the taxes and fees, until early the next year. That automatically puts them in violation of the proposed rule.

A simple fix would be provisions to: (1) Extend the annual effective date until Jan. 31 instead of the end of the year: (2) require a written statement from each affected member postmarked by Jan 31 that all such obligations are current; and (3) provide that any such member found being in violation automatically is removed from office unless the alleged liability is under appeal or in litigation.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, Ga. 30503.

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