By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Senate resolution targets tax-delinquent lawmakers
Eric Johnson Office 2
Sen. Eric Johnson works in his Atlanta office. - photo by Courier file photo
ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia legislators who don't pay their taxes on time would face sanctions or ouster under a measure the state Senate could soon consider.

The proposal comes after a report by the Department of Revenue revealed 22 lawmakers from both chambers - about 10 percent of state legislators - are delinquent on their tax bills, some owing money from as far back as 2002. Sponsor Sen. Eric Johnson said the measure was meant to target the "serial abusers" who knowingly don't pay their taxes.

"People in Georgia are outraged," said Johnson, a Savannah Republican who is running for lieutenant governor. "We're cutting our budget by $2 billion and we're being lectured about how we're spending our money" by some who aren't paying taxes. "It's hypocritical and arrogant."

Johnson's proposal was unanimously adopted by the Senate Rules Committee Wednesday and could soon be considered by the full Senate. It would require two-thirds majority to pass and, because it changes Senate procedure in the middle of the session, Johnson said it needs to be considered within 48 hours.

The state constitution grants each chamber the power to set guidelines for who can be seated. Johnson's proposal would allow lawmakers to censure, reprimand or expel their colleagues who haven't paid their taxes.

The House, meanwhile, is signaling it could take a different approach. State Rep. Joe Wilkinson, the chair of the House Ethics Committee, said he has asked legal counsel to determine whether violators could be punished under existing law.

Leaders of the House and Senate Ethics committees requested the report after a House member was found to be delinquent on his taxes. It originally included a list of 19 legislative tax dodgers - with names redacted - but Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham said Wednesday three more senators have been added to the list.

"We're not talking about people who missed an extension payment," he said. "These are folks who have not filed repeatedly."

The specter of alleged tax dodgers roaming the Capitol drew condemnations from leaders of both parties.

State Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, said legislators who failed to pay their tabs have flouted a "moral obligation." And state Sen. Don Balfour explained his support by saying simply: "These are people that are constantly not paying their taxes."

Sign up for our e-newsletters