Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Election - Amendment I

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state's forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government"

Ahhh taxes. If there is anything more gooped up than the Constitution, it is the tax code. Soon, every individual will have their own personalized tax exception. When you also consider no meaningful tax change can occur without changing the Constitution, we have goop piled on top of goop.

First, let's look at the positives. This amendment certainly would encourage large timber growers to continue planting loblollies instead of selling off bits and pieces for a quick capital infusion. Also, there are some indications that Georgia is less competitive due to surrounding states offering similar breaks.

I certainly have sympathy here. Not only has my family participated in the conversion of farmland to pines but my property taxes recently doubled due to letting an agricultural covenant lapse. Amendment I is an extension of this type of covenant to large timber growers.

Covenants freeze property values for a number of years, at least ten, as long as the owner makes no substantial change in the purpose of the land. In this case, the timber growers would be required to continue to harvest trees for a long time instead of suddenly building hundreds of McMansions on the same property.

Here's the problem.

Not included in what you will see on your voting screen is the following clause "The General Assembly is directed to appropriate funds to local government to partially offset any loss of local revenue".

Does anyone think any local government won't scream "help us we're poor"? What we have here is a taxpayer shell game.

Conservation is a good thing and the timber industry is a bright spot in the state of Georgia. The goal here is good but the method is not. We should be able to help them without making the code more byzantine.

Vote no on Amendment 1.

Next: Amendment II

To view amendments in their entirety please go here.

No comments: