Posts Tagged ‘Taxes’

SPLOST – Yes or No?

February 9, 2015

I am against the new SPLOST proposed by the Muscogee County School District School Board; however, I plan to vote for it next month.

I oppose it because it is a continuation of what is probably the most regressive of taxes, a sales tax.  Instead of “a regressive tax,” legislators of old called it the “poor man’s tax.”  A penny means a lot more to someone living on a minimum wage than someone who can afford to travel in his private jet.

So, if I’m not in favor of increasing the sales tax, why will I vote for the SPLOST? Because people, for reasons that I don’t understand, will more readily vote for a sales tax than a property or income tax increase.  The MCSD needs to do things like  building a new Spencer High School, providing better facilities for autistic students, repairing leaking roofs, buying some new busses, and other things.  It appears the only way of financing that is with a  sales tax. That’s reality.

As far as the Frank Myers  and John  Thomas opposition is concerned , I do have to say some of their concerns are worth considering. I see no reasons to pay for another audit when we already have two, but questioning the efficacy of some no-bid purchases is  reasonable; however, I don’t think that consideration should be used to trash the SPLOST. Yes, teachers do need a raise, but that comes from operational, not capital, budgets. You can place a great deal of the blame for the financial stress teachers are facing on a state legislature that has slashed public school budgets for more than a decade.

 

 

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The Falcons Win a Big One, but Still…

January 13, 2013

While I am quite happy the Atlanta Falcons pulled off a thrilling win with a field goal in the last few seconds of he game with Seattle and will now get a chance to win the NFC Championship  with San Francisco next week, I am still opposed to the spending of taxpayers dollars to help build a new billion-dollar stadium for the team.  After all, it is a privately owned profitable business and asking for a $300 million dollar state contribution is a bit much.  The issue is scheduled to come up in the state  legislature this year.  Meanwhile, I’ll be pulling for the team next week. 

A New Year’s Eve Like no Other

December 31, 2012

It’s Monday, which means I should do a post because I said I would try to do one each Monday. I didn’t make it last Monday because frankly I didn’t feel like it. Bronchitis. I’m a little better now so I’ll see what I can do. .

This is truly an interesting New Year’s Eve.  I don’t recall one in which so much is at stake because of the deadline on ending of the Bush tax cuts and the beginning of across-the- board spending cuts. No doubt, just about everyone knows all this because it has been on all of the news channels endlessly.

Those who will be hurt the most by the looming tax hikes and spending cuts, are already those who are hurting the most, the vast majority of the American middle class which has seen its income stagnate for years. Those who are doing quite well will feel the tax bite and, some may even see their investments erode as government spending cuts wipe out some government contracts for goods and services, but the negative effect on them will probably be minor.. The military-industrial complex also will feel the pinch as the defense budget is cut. That is  certainly of concern to our area which depends heavily on defense department spending.

Still, if  you watch the Times Square News Year’s Eve celebration as the ball drops signifying the end of the 2012 and the beginning of 2013, you will see dancing in the streets, cheering, bands playing, singers singing, people kissing, and there will be a general feeling of well-being and happiness in the air. That American spirit, which continues in spite of all that is going on in Washington. is what offers hope, is what eventually gets us through tough times. It has before and it will again. Perhaps at election time it will even provide us with a new Congress, one that will regain the confidence of the American people..

We Are Definitely Going Over the Fiscal Cliff

November 29, 2012

Mark Vitner, Wells Fargo Chief Economist (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1)

 

That’s what Mark Vitner told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus. He is the Chief Economist for Wells Fargo.  He says if we define going over the fiscal cliff as an increase in taxes and less government spending, it’s definitely going to happen. 

He doesn’t think, however, that it will throw us  into a depression, and, after the speech, he told me that the bottom line is that things will get better next year economically, but not by much.  The big problem,he says, is uncertainty. Businesses don’t expand and hire more people when there is uncertainty.

From what I have been reading and hearing on television, that uncertainty will only come close to ending when the president and Congress reach a compromise over how to raise revenues and cut spending. The president wants Congress to go ahead and vote to let the Bush tax cuts stay in force for those making less than $250 thousand a year.  The rest of the details, such as what to do about increasing taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent, can be worked out later.

A lot, certainly not all, of wealthy Americans are agreeable about paying more taxes.  A prime example is billionaire Warren Buffet. He thinks they should be raised on Americans making between  $500 thousand and $1 million a year. 

Republican leadership is sticking by its demand that the tax cuts remain in force for everyone, including the top two percent, but there are now some legislators saying their of oath of office trumps their oath to Grover Norquist , who has turned out to be a very powerful lobbyist indeed.  95 percent of Republicans in Congress signed his no-tax-increases pledge.   

Vitner says that conservatives, even those who would be willing to compromise, fear what would happen to them in their reelection bids if they voted to increase anyone’s taxes.  Going over the cliff maybe what will allow them to compromise. If the tax cuts end, they can then vote for another tax cut, then say they didn’t vote for a tax hike, but a tax cut.     

A lot is at stake in this mess. As you know, programs like Medicare, Social Security, and the military  are involved.   

Who knows what will happen. It’s really hard to get some politicians to put country ahead of party, especially when they are afraid their actions will hurt them at reelection time. . 

Jazz and the Fiscal Cliff

November 12, 2012

They don’t really have anything to  do with one another, but it’s Monday and that means I need a new post since I said I would try to have a new one on Mondays.  Since I can’t seem to settle on one subject, I guess I’ll do a stream of consciousness thing.

The most recent thing that impressed me was the performance of the Atlanta 17 at the Columbus Jazz Society gathering at St. Thomas Episcopal Church yesterday. Wonderful big-band jazz played by Atlanta area businessmen and professionals.  The drummer is a retired chiropractor, for instance,  The crowd, including me, loved it.  The crowd, however should have been larger. I guess the Jazz Society needs better publicity.

The other thing rising to my cognitive surface is what Congress and the president are going to do  about cutting spending and raising taxes.  Like the  guy says, “I don’t want the federal government messing with my Medicare.” I understand somebody really said that.  While we’re at it, I don’t want it messing with my Social Security, either.

I don’t want my taxes going up, either; however, I do want a few things like improved roads, bridges, rapid transit, and schools, and a balanced budget!

Caution! The Georgia Legislature Goes Into Session

January 10, 2011

Prospects are the worst for those on the low rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and not just because of the immediate effects of budget cuts, but because of long-term damage caused by draconian cuts to public education. Up to another 2 billion dollars will have to be cut from the state budget.  Not only is tax revenue not keeping up with budget demands, but federal stimulus money is ending. That should please all of those who opposed taking stimulus money in the first place.

The council that is recommending “tax reform” reportedly wants to rely even more on  the sales tax, the most regressive of taxes. Regressive taxes take a higher percentage from low-income tax payers than high-income tax payers. For one thing, it is expected to recommend reinstatement of the sales tax on the most basic of commodities, food. 

Another program that truly helps middle-class families, HOPE, is in trouble because college tuition fees have grown more than state lottery income.  Something has to be done to save this highly popular program that enables many middle-class youngsters to attend college. Recommendations include increasing the GPA requirement, rejecting students who are in remedial courses, and using financial need as part of admission criteria. If the legislature fails to save this program, perhaps we’ll get a new legislature when the next election rolls around. 

Already down by three billion dollars over the last eight years, more draconian cuts are planned for the state’s public school system.  This could mean more teacher furloughs and worse.  This is really depressing because the future of the people of this state depends on better public education.   

Rep. Calvin Smyre, GA House District 132

Representative Calvin Smyre puts it this way in his online legislative report:  “Although state revenues have increased by 7.4 percent through the first five months of fiscal year 2011, balancing next year’s budget will be more difficult because Georgia will not be able to take advantage of federal stimulus funding as we have the past two years. Gov.-Elect Deal, who is proposing a tax cut for corporations, has already put local public school systems on notice to brace for further funding cuts. Over the past eight years, the state has already slashed more than $3 billion in funding to local schools, causing larger class sizes, fewer school days, teacher furloughs and layoffs and higher local property taxes.”

In transportation, the legislature is expected once again to ignore the need for commuter rail. This means the Atlanta area gridlock nightmare will probably get worse.

Well, the legislature certainly has one thing going for it:  very low expectations.

Republican Heavy-Hitters Hit Town

October 25, 2010

Sen. Isakson finishes his talk and welcomes Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal to the podium at Lakebottom Park in Columbus

Just about all of Georgia’s Republican heavy-hitter candidates rolled into Columbus on a campaign bus this afternoon for a rally in the band shell at Lakebottom Park.  From there they went to a fund-raising reception at the Convention and Trade Center.

Nathan DealU.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, 3rd District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland,  gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, and 2nd Congressional District candidate Mike Keown all took their turn at the microphone, but the message was pretty much the same: the big issue is jobs and they want the chance to help provide more. How? Same way that Republicans have been espousing all along,  low taxes and fewer regulations, though Sen. Isakson did allow that regulations were all right to “level the playing field,” but not to “determine the outcome of the game.”  

3rd U.S. District Rep. Lynn Westmorland

Will lower, or at least no new taxes, and fewer regulations provide more jobs?  They want to continue the Bush tax cuts, not just for the middle class but for the upper class, too.  Well, the Bush tax cuts were still in place when the jobless rate zoomed upward toward the end of the Bush administration. 

Last quarter saw big profits for America’s big corporations.  That did not translate into a lot of new jobs.   Fewer employees lead to higher profits.  So what makes Republicans think more jobs will be provided by lower taxes? Lower taxes on the middle class make some sense since the middle class drives consumerism, which is what our economy depends upon.  You don’t sell millions of hamburgers and cars to the wealthy. There just aren’t that many of them.   

The Battle over the Defense Budget

May 24, 2010

Why in the world, when our country is suffering economic chaos with out-of-control deficit spending and whopping increases in the national debt, are we spending more on defense than all of the rest of the world’s nations combined?  We spend 5 times more than China, and ten times more than Russia. 

Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Well, we’ve been fighting two wars for more than 8 years. And even though the 2011 defense budget comes in at $549 billion, Congress is on the verge of adding another $159 billion for those wars.  You’d think $549 billion would be enough. And maybe it would if, for one thing,  Congress would stop funding things the defense department doesn’t really need, things that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is not even asking for.  However, those things are being asked for by defense contractors who pour a lot of money into campaign coffers. 

Rep. Alan Grayson, (D) Florida, Dist 8

Florida Rep. Alan Grayson has introduced a bill to kill the $159 billion request and use that money to end income taxes on the first $35 thousand for individuals and $70 thousand for couples, and use the rest, $15 billion, to reduce the deficit.  In a news release Friday he said, “What George Orwell wrote about in 1984 has come true. What Eisenhower warned us about concerning the ‘military-industrial complex’ has come true. War is a permanent feature of our societal landscape, so much so that no one notices it anymore.

“But we’re going to change this. Today, we’re introducing a bill called ‘The War Is Making You Poor Act’. The purpose of this bill is to connect the dots, and to show people in a real and concrete way the cost of these endless wars.”

Guess we all need to pay attention to what Congress does this week. If fact, we ought to pay attention to what it does every week.

GA Attorney General Candidate Still Has to Deal with State Budget Crisis

March 8, 2010

AS THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE RECONVENES TODAY, THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN THE STATE IS AT STAKE, WHICH MEANS THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA IS AT STAKE.

Rep. Rob Teilhet, Cobb County, GA, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

I was interested in what Cobb County Rep. Rob Teilhet had to say about his bid to become Georgia’s next attorney general, but I was just as interested to what he said to me before his talk to Muscogee County Democrats, because we discussed the financial disaster facing public education, Medicaid, and other state services.

These are issues he still must deal with because he still represents the people of his area of Cobb County, and, actually, he and all legislators represent all Georgians.  The problem, he says, is that the proposed budget is about $20 billion dollars,  about $2 billion more than revenues will provide, so something has to give.

The legislature can cut the education budget even more, including $300 million for higher education, which will mean teacher layoffs,  fewer courses being offered, and larger class sizes for the teachers that remain. There is talk that the elementary and high school year will be shortened from 170 to 160 days.

Rep. Teilhet tells me that the legislature is considering cutting state Medicaid payments by 17  percent.  He says if that happens, some hospitals will probably close, especially the smaller ones in rural areas.

It appears that, even though it’s a hard thing to do, taxes are going to have to be raised, I suggested.  He agreed, pointing out that a bed tax for hospitals could keep the Medicaid program at its current level. That’s what Governor Perdue is suggesting. A $1 cigarette tax is something that Georgians appear to be willing to support he said.  That would raise $400 million, enough to prevent destroying higher education.

Now, back to the reason he came to Columbus, to get local Democrats to support his bid for the attorney general job.  He promises to be tough on crime –  it seems candidates for attorney general always promise that – and tough on those who prey on the state’s consumers.  He also wants a stronger ethics law. I pointed out that’s a legislative matter. He said that the attorney general can also recommend legislation  to the General Assembly.  He also said that, as attorney general, he would prosecute violators of that law.

Mayor Wetherington Will Vote for School SPLOST

July 29, 2009

BUT, HE DOESN”T APPEAR TO BE DOING IT WITH GREAT ENTHUSIASM 

 Rotarian Dr. Philip Schley, Chair of the Muscogee County School District Board of Education,  stood up during the question and answer session following Mayor Jim Wetherington’s talk to Columbus Rotarians and asked how the mayor was going to vote on the school SPLOST.  

“Richard [Bishop of Uptown Columbus]  asked me about that this morning, and I told him I hadn’t decided, yet.  But,  I am going to vote yes.”  He explained that was slow to respond because Columbus voters approved of his SPLOST for public safety and street improvements, and he didn’t want to become known as the mayor who is an expert on taxes.  “But, I am going to vote yes.  BRAC is going to mean we need more classrooms.  I am  not, however, going to campaign for it.” 

Jim Wetherington, Mayor, Columbus, GA, J. Robert Jones, Presdient, Rotary Club of Columbus

Jim Wetherington, Mayor, Columbus, GA, J. Robert Jones, President, Rotary Club of Columbus

The mayor gave a “state of the city” speech to members of the Rotary Club of Columbus in which he reported that his goal of 100 new police officers has almost been reached.  He said Columbus is fairing better than a lot of cities during these economically tough times,  that some are on the brink of bankruptcy,  but things are looking good for Columbus, with NCR bringing 800 new jobs to the city when its atomatic teller machine factory opens,  and all of the new jobs that the buildup at Fort Benning will bring.  He also mentioned that two new fire stations are being constructed,  and two police precincts will be opened, one at the new CB&T branch on Buena Vista Road, and another one in North Columbus in the vicinity of Veterans Parkway and Williams Road.

I asked him about all of the talk about his not running for reelection. He smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t know…age is catching up to me.”