A.D. Frazier is not a happy camper. My friend and former Atlanta Olympic colleague spent last summer chairing the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, a 10-member council appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.
The group was charged with gathering the opinions of Georgians across the state and turning their findings into recommendations for a new state tax code that would be “job-friendly” and “growth-friendly” and then give the package to the General Assembly for action in the 2011 session.
Now, legislators are about to take a whack at the recommendations. Knowing our intrepid public servants, it won’t be much of a whack. And that is what has Frazier angry.
The council has recommended a reduction in the state income tax rate to be offset by taxes on a host of services from groceries to hair cuts to lawn service, as well as an increase in the gasoline tax that would be linked to the cost of road construction around the state.
Frazier says the council’s reform package is pretty much a wash for taxpayers. Yes, we would pay more sales tax, but we would make it up with a lower income tax rate.
I can assure you that Frazier was thorough and impartial in what he and his group recommended to lawmakers. Being “political” isn’t in his makeup. He calls things like he sees them.
At the time the council was formed, Frazier was told what he brought back to the legislature would go a Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The committee will then write a bill that would be voted up-or-down by the General Assembly without amendments. What they didn’t tell him was all of this would happen when pigs fly.
Anybody who thinks the General Assembly will accept the council’s recommendations as presented doesn’t know much about politics. Lobbyists have been on this thing like flies on a cow patty. And we all know that special interests have an advantage that you and I don’t have. We don’t have the time or deep pockets to take our legislators to dinner or to ballgames (or to Germany), tend bar for them after hours and laugh uproariously at their lame jokes.
Since the council was formed, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has been denuded by a group of senators who now run the place. A Gang of Six now decides what gets done, not the lieutenant governor.
The exact opposite is true in the House. House Speaker David Ralston is firmly in control of that body. Trouble is he acts more like a kid in a candy store reaping the benefits of the good life provided by fawning lobbyists and sycophantic members. He hasn’t shown the leadership of a broomstick.
If A.D. Frazier had asked me, I would have told him not to take this job without the assurance there would be an opportunity for him to explain his recommendations to the public. Of course, no one would have agreed to that because it takes control of the process out of the hands of the legislators and lizard-loafered lobbyists and puts it in the hands of the people.
Not surprisingly, Morris News Service political writer Walter Jones reports that House Ways and Means Chairman Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro, wants the special joint House-Senate committee to rewrite the legislation covering the council’s recommendations.
“Even though the council did a good job and came up with many good ideas,” Channell told Jones, “the reality is there are some things in those recommendations that just plain are not going to fly.”
Frazier’s reaction? “We spent seven months listening to the people of Georgia” he fumed, “worked extremely hard at our job and gave the speaker and lieutenant governor a unanimous set of recommendations. Now watching the legislature mangle what we gave them is nothing short of obscene. The person who has disappointed me the most is the man who appointed me to the council, David Ralston.” Welcome to the club.
Like their proposals or not – and that generally depends on whether or not it is your ox that is being gored – A.D. Frazier and the council gave the politicians what they asked for – a revamp of Georgia’s antiquated tax code. What the legislators gave them in return is a bunch of political shuck-and-jive. They aren’t going to deal with the hard stuff and never intended to. In short, Frazier and friends have been had.
Yarbrough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Ga. 31139.