The leadership of the House and Senate on Thursday pushed for the creation of two panels that would offer suggestions for revamping Georgia's tax laws, which they say are outdated and must be fixed before the economy rebounds if the state is to remain competitive and attractive.
A new bill would establish the 11-member 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and the 12-member Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure. The tax reform council would include three economists. Outgoing Gov. Sonny Perdue and former Gov. Zell Miller could also be on the panel.
"The time to undertake this kind of project is really when times are not so good," said Speaker of the House David Ralston. "The challenges we face make this a good environment to start this discussion."
The council's recommendations would be due no later than Jan. 10. The panel's proposals would translate into at least one bill that would be voted on in the 2011 session.
Under the proposed legislation, the panels would completely bypass the regular legislative process. The outside panel would make a recommendation to a special committee of legislators who would then draw up a bill and move it straight to the floor - taking the unusual step of avoiding the regular legislative committee process. It could then not be amended on the floor.
Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said current tax codes are a "broken relic" that hurt the state's economy.
"We need a tax system that promotes growth and doesn't stand in the way of those things that we know work," Rogers said. "The current tax system we have does not work for Georgia."
The last time a Republican leader in Georgia suggested a major overhaul of the state's tax structure was in 2007, when then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson proposed wiping out property taxes and replacing them with sales taxes on goods and services that had been exempt. That divisive plan faced stiff resistance from local governments and school groups, who rely on property taxes. It was eventually abandoned.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said government needs to do as business has done and look at reinventing themselves to be more efficient ahead of the economic recovery.
"We can certainly do things in a way that will encourage more entrepreneurial-minded people to locate here and create their dreams and opportunities in our state," Cagle said.