Rep. Fludd pushes for better tax collection
Nearly 100 people attended a town hall meeting Saturday conducted by state Rep. Virgil Fludd. The meeting held at Creel Park in south Fulton County centered on transportation, education and potential ways to increase state tax revenues.
Fludd said approximately 56 percent of state budget dollars go toward education.
“We spend half the budget on education, but we spend less per person than most other states,” Fludd said while including the reality that education funding to date has seen the fewest cuts of any department of state government.
Noting what he said was a problem with tax revenue collections by the Department of Revenue, Fludd said that only six-tenths of one percent of businesses are audited to ensure that they are sending the correct amount of tax receipts to the state. Fludd said he doubted if that was occurring.
“We’re conservative about tax cuts but we don’t do much about new revenue,” Fludd said, citing the honor system that essentially exists and the small percentage of businesses monitored for accuracy. “So a lot of people are basically getting away with stealing your (tax dollars). This means between $200 million and $1 billion is not coming in.”
Commenting on transportation, Fludd said the challenge with the current system is that it is underfunded, adding that MARTA is the only major system in the United States that does not receive state funding.
“We need a transit-focused sales tax, possibly a 1-cent sales tax,” Fludd said.
While acknowledging that the legislative debate over public transportation is ongoing, Fludd said residents of Fulton and DeKalb counties have been paying for MARTA’s upkeep for 35 years.
Old National community leader and activist Michael Venable gave his take on the situation with MARTA.
“We’re not interested in being double-taxed for transportation. Fulton, DeKalb and Atlanta would be paying 2 cents and everybody else would be paying 1-cent. That’s totally unfair and unacceptable,” Venable said.
Fludd in his response noted that residents of counties such as Fayette and Cobb use MARTA and that maybe it should become a regional carrier or become part of the state Department of Transportation.
“Fulton and DeKalb paid the 1-cent but they’ve had the benefit of having MARTA,” Fludd added. “To fix things in metro in the coming years would probably cost $50 billion. We have to reconcile Fulton and DeKalb’s (contribution) for 35 years. We don’t want to tax people twice but we do need a solution. We can’t have a solution that lets Fayette and other counties opt out of it.”
Fludd in addressing other ways to boost state revenues said one of those would be through his bill that would impose a temporary 1 percent surcharge on individuals making $200,000 or more and families with a combined $400,000. Fludd told the audience the surcharge would affect less than one percent of the state’s population and would generate about $225 million.
Other tax revenue generating measures could include a $1 tax on tobacco, a 15 percent reduction on special exemptions for large-scale development projects and a 3-cent tax on gasoline, said Fludd.
“Georgia, next to Alaska, has the lowest gasoline tax,” said Fludd, proposing that gasoline purchased in Georgia by state residents could receive a 1-cent credit on their purchases, thereby taxing only out of state drivers.
Fludd in proposing an accountability measure said 39 states have a tax expenditure report that tracks how and where money is being spent.
“We need one, too,” he said.
Other discussion topics at the town hall meeting included information on the Fulton County Juvenile Justice Program by Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Kenya Johnson and information on new banking laws and other personal finance issues by Bank of America representative Nasha Knowles.
Fludd’s district includes part of northern Fayette and a section of south Fulton counties. Fludd lives near Tyrone.