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Legislators take on taxes, water at chamber meeting

Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2007

Columbia County's legislative delegation and the speaker of the state House spoke Tuesday on issues facing lawmakers during a breakfast meeting of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

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In recent weeks, Speaker Glenn Richardson has touted his plan to replace property taxes with an expanded sales tax on goods and services.

Richardson said property taxes have outlived their usefulness because most were implemented more than a century ago, when the state and national economies were agriculture-based.

Retail businesses and other commercial ventures have long since replaced agriculture as the state's driving economic force, he said.

"We'll go from taxing dirt and buildings to taxing the exchange of money," he said.

Richardson's proposed constitutional amendment is titled Georgia's Repeal of Every Ad Valorem Tax.

Even if the plan doesn't win approval from lawmakers and Georgia voters, Richardson promised some tax reform measures.

The Hiram Republican wants to limit the reassessment of property values to 1 percent growth per year and cap the budget growth of local governments at the rate of inflation plus 1 percent.

Financial issues, in general, will be an important issue for lawmakers, said state Sen. Bill Jackson, R-Appling, as they contend with a potential $20 million budget.

Also during the meeting at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Jackson and state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, proposed adding reservoirs to better protect the state during drought.

Reservoirs such as Thurmond and Lanier lakes have lessened the potential effect of the drought on the Augusta area, Fleming said.

Jackson agreed with Fleming's evaluation and said he would do all he could to prevent the tapping of the Savannah River.

"We've got to protect our water," he said.

Fleming also said he wants the Legislature to fund the construction of a new dental school building at the Medical College of Georgia, which is the state's only dental school.

The current facilities are too small and old to properly educate future dentists, he said.

Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, said she would like to research measures to retain physicians graduating from MCG and encourage others to locate in rural areas.

"If they're training in our wonderful state of Georgia, they need to stay," she said.

Though Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said the state Department of Transportation "has been very good to us," road infrastructure needs in Columbia County will remain an issue for the General Assembly.



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