Imagine each time you went to the supermarket to pick-up just a few household items for your family, you were instead required to purchase a total of $100 worth of stuff. You would be forced to buy items that were either unneeded or more expensive, possibly both. Our families don’t operate like this, and neither should our government.
Currently, Georgia law allows counties to propose a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) for assessing and collecting a one cent sales tax in the county.
Usually lasting four, five or six years, and sometimes shared with cities, the funds collected are used for capital projects such as constructing roads and other infrastructure, local government buildings, and jails.
However, a SPLOST is currently required to be one-percent without any flexibility for a lower rate.
While working on this issue in the 2013 General Assembly session, I introduced HB 153, which allows counties to propose a fractional SPLOST tax percentage, meaning less than one cent. Since some counties and cities have well-developed infrastructure, the one-percent rate can raise more revenue than necessary to fund critically needed capital projects.
For example, a one-percent SPLOST in Cherokee raises approximately $25-30 million annually. However, since Cherokee is a more developed county and doesn’t necessarily need as many new capital projects, actual financial needs could be less than what is generated under a full one-percent.
And because these funds must be spent on capital projects, some counties and cities could create “non-essential projects” to ensure all the revenue is spent.
These non-essential projects could also require additional maintenance funds, which must come from the county’s general budget, whose funds would be better directed at other important functions like public safety.
It’s important to note that this legislation allows for a lower rate on future SPLOST referendums and is not a new or additional SPLOST.
Some suggest just shortening the SPLOST’s duration, but this leads to changing sales tax rates more frequently, not to mention that a consistent, lower sales tax rate can lead to more revenue when economic development is factored in later years.
According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, at least 22 of the 37 states that have local sales taxes allow a fractional rate. And let’s not forget that Georgia already charges a fractional percentage for gasoline excise tax (7.5 cents per gallon).
If counties chose to reduce their SPLOST rate by, for example, a half of one-percent, this could easily save the average Georgia family $80-100 a year.
This bill is co-sponsored by numerous legislators from both parties, and is unanimously supported by Chairman Buzz Ahrens and the Cherokee County Commissioners, the Cobb County Commissioners, the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors, the Georgia Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity and several other leading business associations in metro Atlanta.
This group may seem like strange friends after last summer’s T-SPLOST vote, but we are united behind this fiscally responsible legislation.
I believe this is a necessary tool that would encourage local governments to focus on essential projects while lessening the burden on taxpayers like you and me.
Fractional SPLOST; it makes cents and it makes sense.
State Rep. John Carson (R-Southeast Cherokee).