From the Gold Dome sneaky priorities file: A common sense bill that is projected to produce $100 million in annual state revenue if passed has so far been refused even a committee hearing.
House Bill 66, from state Rep. Jeff Jones of Brunswick, consists of a simple and proven concept involving a, small, fully refundable fee on wire transfers sent out of the state by individuals. Corporate transfers are specifically exempted and Jones makes it clear that his revenue bill is aimed at the vast underground economy.
Under the language of Jones’ bill, wire transfer senders who pay the small and standardized fee can easily obtain a full refund when they file their state income tax return.
Implemented in Oklahoma in 2010, the revenue system does not cost honest tax filers of any description a penny. Official reports from Oklahoma show that not only is the refundable fee system producing a reliable stream of revenue, but that it is increasing by about 10 percent each year. In 2015, the system added $11 million to the state coffers there.
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The reluctance to allow a hearing on HB 66 seems to be related to the fact that in part, it will assuredly harvest revenue from the huge amount of money sent out of Georgia every year by black-market labor. This, despite Jones’ assurance that he has been told by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce that it has taken a “support” position on his measure.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, Georgia has a larger illegal population than Arizona and dwarfs that of Oklahoma. Solid 2006 figures from the Inter-American Development Bank show that more than $1.7 billion was sent from Georgia in the form of “remittances” to the home nations of immigrants living in Georgia, many of them illegally.
While the Georgia Legislature may be willing to ignore the huge revenue windfall readily available involved in remittances, Mexico grins all the way to the bank. That nation took in about $25 billion last year in money sent back by its citizens living outside the country. An amount higher than its oil revenue. Most of that money left the United States. This is in addition to the fact that Atlanta is a hub for the illegal drug trade and the estimated billions of dollars that vile industry creates and which Georgia cannot levy.
HB 66 has been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla. This is an important note in that Powell himself has authored a bill to impose a tax — not refundable — on online commerce and has a who’s who list of powerful co-sponsors.
Add to all this the push to reinstate the fuel tax credit for Delta from establishment Republican Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, and the unabashed willingness of Republican leadership to openly debate casino gambling — I mean “destination resorts” — while boasting of the potential revenue to the state from that controversial topic.
We think the refusal to jump on the $100 million-a-year revenue from the no-brainer system involved in Jones’ bill says a lot about the Republican-run House.
It is up to the Georgia taxpayers to decide exactly what the message really is.
Update Thursday PM: After this was written and posted here, during a lunch-time visit to the state Capitol, this writer learned that earlier in the day the Georgia House had passed a bill to give “big boat” owners a tax break. And that one of the co-signers – a Democrat - of the legislation described above had scratched his name off the bill, HB 66.
We also learned that the email sent to Rep. Jones from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce was a mistake. The Chamber had this bill confused with another one. The unsurprising situation is that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce wants HB 66 to die along with the estimated $100 million annual boost to the state budget it would harvest from the underground economy.
There is a swamp under the Gold Dome. It should be drained.
D.A. King is president of the Dustin Inman Society.