In a meeting attended by many city of Griffin officials, Higdon began with a famous quote.
“All politics is local,” Higdon said, referring to the book by former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr.
This is how politics should be, he said.
“But there’s an effort in Georgia that will change all that,” he said.
He said House Resolution 900, championed by Richardson, threatens local decision-making and self-determination. He said the resolution would eliminate property taxes and replace them with an expanded sales tax that would include professional services, which have never been taxed before.
“It’s being said around here that if it’s not a motor vehicle, if it moves and breathes, the speaker wants to tax it,” he said.
Higdon said state government cannot be trusted to manage the funds, claiming that the state government failed to protect children and the environment and cannot maintain order on the interstate highways because it underfunded the Georgia State Patrol. Higdon also said Georgians would pay more in taxes under the proposal.
“His (Richardson’s) proposal is likely to raise taxes for everyone in the state,” he said.
Higdon said the proposal would under-fund local needs.
“Cities, counties and the school system would have to rely on state handouts to fund local needs,” he said.
He said the state government, which cannot even agree on a budget, should not be entrusted with “the community’s checkbook” and that politicians from Atlanta, Savannah and Bainbridge should not make decisions on how many police officers the city of Griffin should hire or whether the school system should offer Advanced Placement classes.
He raised the specter of residents of the city having to travel to Hiram, Rome or Atlanta to appeal to influential state representatives for funds and cited polls that said Georgia residents liked their local governments best.
Higdon ended the speech by citing the importance of property taxes as a stable, diversified source of revenue and said the state and local governments should collaborate on solving the state’s problems rather than the state government “taking away a much-needed local revenue source.”
“The speaker’s ‘great plan’ is not great, it’s not even good,” Higdon said.
He urged audience members to contact their representatives and tell them not to support HR 900 and implied that Richardson is supporting the measure because he wants to be associated with tax reform and has the 2010 gubernatorial election in mind.
Elmer George, a former Griffin city manager, said the resolution, because it eliminates property taxes, would encourage people to buy up large amounts of land, leaving little for others. Higdon agreed, saying that large landowners would support the bill.
Spalding County Tax Commissioner Sylvia Hollums said the bill could make the House speaker more powerful than the governor and Higdon agreed, pointing out that revenue bills must originate in the House.
Griffin Board of Commissioners member Joanne Todd attended the Kiwanis meeting.
“I serve on the legislative policy council of the Georgia Municipal Association and we are studying this issue,” she said. “We have put out a paper on it.”
She said the policy council has taken its concerns to the Georgia General Assembly, but the concerns were ignored. The state House of Representatives, she said, is intent on passing the measure.