ATLANTA — A number of Northeast Georgia lawmakers say they would have no problem voting to penalize members of the General Assembly who haven’t paid their taxes.
Nineteen legislators — including three senators — are delinquent on their tax bills, according to a report from the state Department of Revenue. Some of the past due taxes date back to 2002.
"We ought to pay our taxes and pay them on time," said Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain. "There is a process that if you’re going to be late, you can file that you are going to be late and you pay the interest charges. But to not pay, I think it reflects poorly on everyone."
State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said the news comes at a time when the state is owed $1.7 billion in back taxes.
"It’s an issue and people have got to pay their taxes," Rogers said.
Sen. Eric Johnson, a Savannah Republican, said he’s pushing legislation that would require lawmakers in the chamber be current on their tax bills. If they aren’t, they could face disciplinary action, including removal from the Senate.
Johnson, chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said the change is designed to go after elected officials who think they are tax-exempt.
In the House, Rep. Joe Wilkinson said he’s asked legal counsel to determine whether violators can be punished under existing law.
State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said he would take such action a step further to include those who fail to file their financial disclosure and ethics report.
"I’ve always felt that elected officials are not above the law and they should be held to a higher standard," Hamilton said, adding that lawmakers should be asked to resign for failing to pay their taxes.
State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said if the tax liability is not due to a clerical error, then, the lawmaker should pay his or her bill.
"I could support a law to that effect," Collins said.
The 19 delinquent lawmakers have not been identified.