Questions on the 2014 ballot column

While most voters are aware of the candidates on the general election ballot November 4th, many are unaware of the three questions also on the ballot.

Two of the questions are constitutional amendments, meaning that, if approved by the majority of voters voting in this election, our state’s constitution will be amended to include these changes.

The other question is a statewide referendum involving a tax exemption which requires approval of a majority of voters voting in this election in order to be implemented.

Here’s a look at the questions and a brief explanation of each.

PROPOSED
CONSTITUTIONAL
AMENDMENTS
YES
NO
– A –
To prohibit an increase in the
state income tax rate in effect
January 1, 2015 (Senate
Resolution 415).
Senate Resolution No. 415
Act No. 592
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended
to prohibit the General Assembly from
increasing the maximum state income tax
rate?”

Currently, the top income tax rate in our state is 6 percent. Although we don’t always set the rate at this level, 6 percent is the highest we can currently set it at. If passed, this would amend our constitution capping the top income tax rate at 6 percent.

Although somewhat symbolic, capping the rate at this level would improve Georgia’s competiveness while bringing certainty to businesses contemplating expansion decisions in our state.

While Georgia’s total tax liabilities (income taxes, corporate taxes and sales taxes) are very competitive, we have one of the highest income tax liabilities of any of our southeastern neighbors. In fact, our 6 percent rate is the highest in the southeast when compared to the 5.8 percent in North Carolina and 5 percent in Alabama. Tennessee only taxes dividend and interest income and Florida has no state income tax.

By passing this amendment, Georgia would become the first state to cap the income tax in its constitution and would prevent any future income tax increases above 6 percent.

YES
NO
– B –
Adding reckless driving
penalties or fees to the brain and
spinal injury trust fund (House
Resolution 1183).
House Resolution No. 1183
Act No. 589
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended
to allow additional reckless driving penalties or
fees to be added to the Brain and Spinal Injury
Trust Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative
services for Georgia citizens who have survived
neurotrauma with head or spinal cord injuries?”

Currently our constitution allows additional fines for DUI offenses to go to the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund, a fund set up to assist victims of head and spinal cord injuries. However, because many DUI offenses are now being reduced to reckless driving charges, the solvency of the fund is being threatened. In fact, testimony during the last legislative session indicated that, while demands on the fund have increased, the fund’s assets have decreased by almost 25 percent since 2008.

If passed, the constitution will be amended to allow the courts to assess an additional 10 percent of the fine imposed under the reckless driving offense to go toward the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund.

PROPOSED
STATEWIDE
REFERENDUM
YES
NO
– 1 –
Allows property owned by the
University System of Georgia
and operated by providers of
student housing and other
facilities to remain exempt
from taxation.
House Bill No. 788
Act No. 613
“Shall property owned by the University
System of Georgia and utilized by
providers of college and university student
housing and other facilities continue to be
exempt from taxation to keep costs
affordable?”

Currently, student housing and other facilities owned by the University System of Georgia are exempt from ad valorem taxes. If passed, this would allow the tax exempt status to be passed on to a private party who is contractually obligated to operate the property.

The purpose behind this proposal is to control the amount of debt that the University System has accumulated. As a result of building projects on University campuses undertaken in the past few years, the University System has accumulated over $3.6 billion in debt. By allowing private companies to benefit from the ad valorem tax exemption, they can build the buildings and incur the debt obligation.

Agreements between the University System and private companies would be from a competitive procurement process, would include measures to prohibit the costs of rents being raised and passed on to students and could be terminated if breached.

Allowing these agreements would help the University System maintain their favorable bond ratings by containing debt while continuing to provide world class facilities on University campuses.

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