The first issue that Douglas, a Republican from Social Circle, discussed was tax reform. The first bill he discussed was House Bill 195.
“What it does is over the next five to six years, it would eliminate the income tax on retirement pay,” he said.
On Jan. 1, 2009, retirement income up to $65,000 would be exempt and each year, the amount exempt would rise until it became unlimited on Jan. 1, 2013.
“The odds of that bill passing are not very good,” Douglas said, because “all the oxygen in the room” is being absorbed by House Resolution 900, state Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson’s plan to abolish all ad valorem taxes in Georgia.
Douglas listed the 11 taxes, including all property taxes, motor fuel taxes and unemployment taxes, that the bill would abolish.
Douglas pointed out that abolishing all those taxes would deprive the state and local governments of $9.5 billion in revenue. In order to make up for the revenue losses, the state would have to expand the sales tax to cover exempted transactions such as person-to-person car sales, plumbing services and the sale of houses. Audience members were dismayed by the concept of a sales tax on doctor visits.
Even that won’t be enough, Douglas said. He said the sales tax would have to be imposed on business-to-business transactions, which will further burden the consumer.
“Businesses do not pay taxes,” Douglas said. “They pass them along to you.”
Douglas also said HR 900 would centralize power in Atlanta at the expense of local governments.
He raised the possibility of the mayors of Hampton and Griffin going hat-in-hand to bureaucrats in Atlanta to ask for money to buy new fire trucks.
He said he hopes the bill does not get to the Senate, but said if it does, it will probably pass.
Nobody wants to be the one who votes in favor of continued property taxes, he said.
The bill that he supports is Senate Resolution 282, which would abolish the state income tax and replace it with an expanded sales tax. He said sales taxes are the fairest because one can reduce his or her tax burden by buying less. An expanded sales tax would also defeat attempts at tax evasion.
“Only honest people pay income tax,” he said.
An expanded sales tax would find those who don’t pay taxes on their income, like drug dealers and illegal immigrants.
He next moved on to PeachCare. He said the state government was counting on help from the federal government but President Bush vetoed the bill because of antiwar amendments tacked on.
“We are probably going to end up trying to find the money ourselves to cover PeachCare,” he said.
He criticized efforts in Washington to expand the program to cover children of parents making up to $80,000 a year, who, he said, do not need government assistance.
Douglas then spoke about water. He criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for refusing to reduce the water taken out of Lake Lanier, and actually increasing the amount, in order to maintain endangered species in Florida. He also criticized the state of Alabama for opposing Georgia’s attempt to get North Georgia declared a disaster area by Bush so that Alabama can continue drawing Georgia water.
The last major issue Douglas covered was illegal immigration. Douglas praised the success of state-level initiatives in Georgia and elsewhere intended to control illegal immigration.
“We have been told that particularly around Cobb County and Gwinnett County, a lot of the Hispanic illegals are beginning to leave,” he said.
He said they are making their way to North Carolina and South Carolina.
He then told the people about how the police department in Dalton — where many illegal immigrants work in the carpet factories — requires 80 hours of Spanish instruction in order to be promoted. Douglas complained about this but the department stood its ground. Douglas said in January, he plans to introduce a bill forbidding police departments from making proficiency in a non-official language a condition of promotion.
Bill Stokes, a new member of NARFE, liked Douglas’ speech.
“I find it very interesting,” he said. “Bill 900 seems interesting, but will they pass it?”
Warren E. Sellers also liked the speech.
“I thought it was extraordinarily good,” he said. “He covered most everything we’d be concerned about.”