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Williams should settle state tax debt

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POSTED: September 9, 2009 9:45 a.m.
Al Williams, Liberty County’s only member of the Georgia General Assembly, has a gift for oration but the Midway Democrat also has a financial problem that is staining his reputation and adding to statewide image problems for the county.
The problem is income tax he reportedly owes the state. More than a year ago, the Courier and other media outlets reported that Williams owed state taxes. His state pay is now being garnished.
The amount Williams owes varies depending on who is reporting. The Associated Press reported in March that it is was about $42,000, while the lawmaker reported it was about $400. Last month the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported state records show he owes at least $70,000, possibly as much as $100,000, according to liens filed as far back as 2006. Even later last month, he told the AP he had received notice he owed more than $40,000. He told the Morris News Service he owed about $600.
That was last month as a law pushed through the General Assembly by state Sen. Eric Johnson went into effect allowing for the disclosure of names of lawmakers who owe state taxes. Johnson said three senators, who had been delinquent on taxes had settled up. State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said all but three representatives had cleared up past-due bills. Wilkinson did not name the three since an investigation is supposed to ensue before the names are made public, but they apparently include Williams.
Besides allowing for disclosure of names, the bill also allows for the House or Senate ethics panels to sanction or possibly remove those still delinquent.
In the AJC article, the Midway Democrat said he is confident the issue “will be resolved in a short period of time.”
“It’s been much too long and I’m not happy about it, but I would have been more than happy a long time ago to work out the situation,” he said.
Taxpayers across the state, especially Williams’ constituents, should also be unhappy with the situation. The amount owed is not as important as the simple fact that our representative, who decides tax and other policy issues for us in Atlanta, is not paying his share.
Wilkinson has said he wants the stricter penalties attached to the law by the elections next year, barring lawmakers who have not filed taxes from voting and even taking their seats in the House.
Williams should clear this mess up before seeking another term in 2010.
 

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