Fri., March 11, 2011 4:48pm (EST)

Tax Plan Might Need Voter OK
By Joshua Stewart
Updated: 3 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
A proposal that would restructure the state’s tax system could require voter approval for some of its structural provisions. Constitutional amendments would be needed to replace local telecommunications franchise fees with a statewide tax on those services and to set up a state fund to offer tax credits to new and growing businesses. (Photo by Casey Carpenter.)
A proposal that would restructure the state’s tax system could require voter approval for some of its structural provisions. Constitutional amendments would be needed to replace local telecommunications franchise fees with a statewide tax on those services and to set up a state fund to offer tax credits to new and growing businesses. (Photo by Casey Carpenter.)
Georgia voters might have to weigh in on a proposal to restructure the state’s tax system.

The plan from the Special Council on Tax Reform adds sales tax to groceries and services and gradually reduces the state’s income taxes. It also would add a statewide tax on telephone, Internet and television services -- including satellite TV, which is not taxed now -- to replace local fees for those services. But that change would require voter approval.

So would the creation of a fund to give tax credits to new and growing businesses and changes in how tax legislation is handled by the General Assembly.

But Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think-tank, said putting the issues on the ballot can be dicey.

“All [voters] have is a very short description on the ballot of what [the amendment] is and sometimes that description isn’t very well written,” Essig said. “And again, if in that description you have the word ‘tax,’ I think it makes it that much more difficult.”

But Essig said if the amendments failed, it likely would not scuttle the council’s reforms.

“If these items were rejected, it wouldn’t change the overriding policy prescription that the tax council had laid out,” Essig said.

If lawmakers approve some or all of the tax reform plan, the amendments would go to voters in November 2012.