YARBROUGH COLUMN: Vernon Jones touts his no state income tax proposal
Published 10:30 am Saturday, December 4, 2021
By Dick Yarbrough
Georgia humor columnist
Vernon Jones called me the other day. To refresh your memory, Jones, a former Democrat and one-time chief executive officer of DeKalb County, is running for the Republican nomination for governor against incumbent Brian Kemp.
After he got an enthusiastic reception at the state GOP convention in July at Jekyll Island from Trump Harrumphs who had lustily booed Kemp, I wrote: “Vernon Jones? You’ve got to be kidding. This guy has more baggage than an airport carousel. Check his record. He is the quintessential RINO.”
To his credit, he contacted me minus the expected righteous indignation at my snarky comments and made his case for why he believes he would be the best candidate to face and defeat the probable Democrat nominee, Stacey Abrams. Among his list: “Let her try and play the race card with me,” said Jones, who is Black. This time he called because he has some ideas he wants to share with voters (that’s you) and says the Atlanta media make a point of ignoring him and his ideas. I am happy to pass them along, this time without the snarky comments and to let you decide for yourself if they are worth your consideration. Besides, a lot of people who read this column ignore the Atlanta media. It works both ways.
In a nutshell, Jones wants to eliminate the state income tax which currently stands at 5.75 percent and believes he can accomplish that task in four years. The state income tax currently brings in some $14 billion and at this point has created a $3 billion surplus.
He says, “Under President Donald Trump’s pro-growth policies, our economy soared. The collection of increased sales taxes, property taxes, and income taxes that our state received allowed the Legislature to use a portion of that new revenue to eliminate the property tax and slightly lower the top income tax from 6 percent to 5.75 percent. But the key word here is ‘portion.’
“In Fiscal Year 2021,our state received $3.2 billion more in taxes than the year prior. Unfortunately, our state’s spending also has soared. In Fiscal Year 2018, our state budget was $25 billion. That has now increased to $27.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2022. Rather than spend the earnings of our hardworking residents, why not let the people of Georgia keep all their money? A small ‘portion’ just isn’t enough.”
Jones says he would make Georgia like neighboring Tennessee and Florida – no state income tax states – and give that money back to the taxpayers.
“My solution to this growing problem is for the elected officials of Georgia to adopt a plan over a multi-year period that would allow us to compete with states that have no income tax,” he told me.” By keeping our state income tax, we are punishing people for bringing their families here. We are punishing them for choosing our state to launch their businesses. And we are punishing them financially for choosing our state rather than our competitors to begin the next chapter of their lives.”
So, how would he do it? “Everything is on the table,” Jones said. “We can still maintain a surplus by cutting unnecessary spending.” He is also looking at several sources of new income, including a two-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, which he says is among the lowest in the nation.
(Actually, Georgia is 16th highest in the nation, according to Tax Foundation, a leading independent tax policy organization.)
Jones also believes casinos are coming to Georgia sooner rather than later and, interestingly, so is cannabis oil, both of which would provide new taxes and offset the loss of revenue from the elimination of the state income tax.
One idea he mentioned that I support is putting a satellite governor’s office in South Georgia. Why should South Georgians always have to travel to Atlanta to see the governor?
Why can’t the governor come to South Georgia and conduct his or her business from there on a scheduled basis?
On the other hand, I think increasing the gasoline tax would be dead on arrival, and I am not as optimistic as he is on seeing casinos and cannabis oil anytime soon but these are Vernon Jones’ proposals, not mine and he is running for governor, not me.
With that, we ended our conversation. It was time for him to get back out on the campaign trail and to try and sell you on why Vernon Jones should be governor.
That part I will leave to you.