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Some residents still trying to figure out tax code bill
Legislation would bring new credits, $50M revenue drop
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Georgia's Senate could vote today on a tax reform bill that promises breaks for married people and a phase-out of property taxes on motor vehicles as people buy new or used cars and trucks.

And Sen. Butch Miller, for one, is ready to lend his support.

"It's good for business, it's good for consumers and it's good for families," said the Gainesville Republican.
The legislation has sped this week through the House, ending with 155-9 approval Tuesday.

The package would give tax cuts to ailing manufacturers and to companies that bring new jobs to Georgia and create sales tax holidays for residents buying back-to-school and energy efficient goods.

Despite the bill's speed, "there has been a great deal of time, study and research ... as to what would benefit the taxpayers of Georgia," Miller said. "And what will be beneficial to businesses ... and what would help attract new, good-paying jobs to Georgia."

A combination of Democrats and tea party groups last year sunk a much broader proposal to change the state's tax code, arguing it would have increased the tax burden on the middle class.

In Hall, some residents and Capitol watchers have been trying to understand the full impact of the legislation.

"I think we're going to find the devil is in the details," said Doug Aiken, a local political observer. "... The people need to know more about this, but I guarantee you it'll ... come rolling out of (the Senate)."

Kris Yardley, chairman of the Hall County Republican Party, was at the Gold Dome on Wednesday trying to get some more information on the legislation.

"I know they say there are about $260 million in tax cuts coming, especially to manufacturers and other places in Georgia, and tax cuts for businesses are really good," he said. "But I'm still trying to figure out what the rest of the bill has in it."

Ed Asbridge, a resident of Sterling on the Lake subdivision in Flowery Branch, spent some of Wednesday trying to find the bill.

"At some point, we've got to trust our legislators and I do trust them, to a point," said Asbridge, who heads the South Hall Republican Club.

He said he had no problems with a married couples tax exemption that's in the proposal, as well as the auto tax "as long as it's revenue neutral."

"The tax holiday is a good idea - anything that saves taxes is good," Asbridge said.

Under the plan, lawmakers would eliminate the annual property tax paid on motor vehicles bought after March 1, 2013.

Instead, motorists would pay a one-time fee based on the vehicle's value that tops out at 7 percent in 2015.

People who bought their cars and trucks before the proposed change in the law would continue paying annual property tax bills until they buy another vehicle.

Married couples could claim $1,000 to $2,000 more in money exempt from the state income tax.

Budget analysts estimate the tax breaks will create a roughly $50 million deficit next year, a gap equal to less than 1 percent of the current budget.

"I did see a quote from somebody in the newspaper about it's hard for us to find any places to look (for further cuts)," Asbridge said. "To me, that's a good thing, because they're going to have to dig a little deeper."

One component of the legislation that has drawn fire is requiring people to pay sales taxes when they make Internet purchases.

"A lot of mothers buy Christmas that way, trying to save the family budget because the government has taken it every way they can come up with, like this," said Aiken, who used to head the Hall County Taxpayers Association.

He's a big shopper of Maine-based L.L. Bean. "How are you going to force them to collect that tax?" Aiken said.
Mike Scupin, coordinator for the Lanier Tea Party Patriots in Hall County, also takes exception to the Internet tax.

"I've never liked that concept," he said. "I have a deep distrust of government in general. The Internet has ... a really good voice to get information out to people, and as government begins to find ways to hamper anything in the Internet, it concerns me."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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