Channel 2’s Richard Elliot confirmed though the Speaker of the House’s office that the tax reform bill would not be voted on this session. Officials said it could be reintroduced in a special senate.
“I was not going to ask the members of the House to vote on this as long as there were significant questions about the quality of data we had been given,” said Speaker David Ralston moments after he informed rank and file Republicans about his decision.
Ralston admitted later lawmakers simply weren’t sure their tax reform bill cut taxes or increased them, so he decided to kill the bill for this session. Lawmakers could bring it up again during this summer’s special session on redistricting, or during next year’s session. That, he said, would give them ample time to make sure the numbers were correct.
“I’m disappointed because it’s not over,” he said. “I would have been more disappointed had we passed something that we later found out was passed on information that was flawed. That would’ve disappointed me.”
House Minority Leader State Rep. Stacey Abrams Atlanta, who has raised red flags over this bill for weeks, praised the speaker’s decision to take a more cautious approach.
“We are pleased that the House has decided to take the time necessary to truly evaluate the bill and ensure there are no tax increases on any Georgians,” said Abrams.
Republican House and Senate leaders have struggled over the tax reform bill all session, but the negotiations became intense over the past week and a half when they learned the original version actually translated into an income tax increase, not a tax cut.
This new version of the bill featured a 4.6 percent income tax, down from the current 6 percent. It included a sales tax on motor vehicle repair labor, along with a sales tax on casual sales of cars, boats and planes. It did away with a myriad of agriculture exemptions and replaced it with what Republicans called a “cleaner” tax exemption. It gave businesses a tax break on energy, but would have phased that break in over a three-year period beginning in 2013. It also included a 7 percent tax on communications, including satellite TV and cellphones, but did restore some itemized deductions.
While lawmakers originally wanted the bill to be revenue neutral, it came with a price tag of approximately $141 million, something legislators would have taken up in the supplemental budget next year.
Sen. Tommie Williams (R) Lyons, the president pro tem of the Senate, said lawmakers believed the bill would generate jobs for Georgians.
“Our goal is not just to lower the income tax by 23 percent,” said Sen. Williams. “It’s to eliminate the state income tax. We’ve been saying that for a long time. We want a flatter, fairer tax.”