Georgia Legislature

Property taxes a hot topic in Georgia Legislature

(The Center Square) — During the most recent Georgia legislative session, property taxes were a hot-button issue, with lawmakers approving $950 million for property tax relief as part of the amended fiscal 2023 budget.

House Bill 18 allows an $18,000 exemption on the assessed home value of qualifying homesteads on the 2023 property tax bill.

“Instead of spending more money on bigger government, I am proud to have voted ‘yes’ on this legislation that gives financial relief to much-deserving Georgia homeowners,” state Rep. Matt Barton, R-Calhoun, said in an announcement. “While Washington, D.C. fails to act on high inflation, our legislature’s strong Republican leadership team continues to put Georgians first, and this legislation will directly impact the citizens of House District 5.”

According to an analysis from WalletHub, Georgia has the 36th highest overall tax burden of any state. The review found that New York had the highest tax burden while Alaska had the lowest.

With a 7.46% total tax burden, the Peach State had a higher tax burden than South Carolina (37), Alabama (39), Florida (46) and Tennessee (47). The state had a 2.58% property tax burden (32nd overall), a 2.11% individual income tax burden (26th overall), and a 2.77% total sales and excise tax burden (38th overall).

During this year’s session, concerns about property taxes trickled down to the local level, including in Gwinnett County, where state Rep. Matt Reeves, R-Duluth, and House Majority Leader Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, pushed local legislation to create a property tax exemption for Gwinnett County residents. The lawmakers touted the moves as the “first major Gwinnett residential property tax cut since 1988.”

House Bill 711 would provide a $4,000 homestead exemption from county school district ad valorem taxes, while House Bill 748 would provide a $2,000 homestead exemption for school district residents who are public service employees. If Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signs the measure, Gwinnett County voters can approve the exemptions during a 2024 referendum.

Additionally, Reeves and state Reps Soo Hong, R-Lawrenceville, and David Clark, R-Buford, pushed House bills 671672 and 673 to provide residential property tax exemptions for Sugar Hill residents. If Kemp signs the bills, Sugar Hill voters can approve the exemptions this year.

But author Joe Patrina has a different view and says that states have no authority to collect property taxes. He says local jurisdictions need to rethink their reliance on property taxes, arguing municipal property taxes exceed “authorized government powers.”

“With property taxes, that’s what happened: They wrote their own code, state code,” Patrina said. “No one ever challenged state code for constitutional merit. …So how can this be that all the states have the state code against the Constitution? No one ever did anything about it.”

When asked by The Center Square how current government programs, such as schools, would be paid for in the absence of property taxes, Patrina said he believes no amount of funding or programs would need to change.

“It’s not getting rid of any of the social programs, it’s just moving the taxes from the property up to the state level, and that’s the only legal place they’re allowed to be,” Patrina told The Center Square.

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

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