Perdue should not hike the cost of home ownership or medical care|
by Sam Olens
Raising taxes during a recession is almost never a good idea.
But that is exactly what Gov. Sonny Perdue is proposing in two crucial state budget areas: housing and health care.
The governor wants to eliminate state grants that save many homeowners $200 to $300 per year on their annual property taxes. At a time when Georgia is leading the nation in home foreclosures, this is clearly not the time to make housing more expensive.
The governor also recommends a 1.6 percent fee on hospitals and health insurers to help fund a deficit in the state's Medicaid program. Again, we do not need to raise the cost of health care or health insurance when Georgia's unemployment rate is rising, when many Georgians are losing their insurance and when many businesses are having a hard time making ends meet. Anything that would discourage a business from offering health insurance-- or make it harder for a displaced worker to get his own health insurance-- should be avoided at virtually all cost.
We can do better than this. Times are hard, but they are certainly not hopeless.
I am chairman of the Cobb County Commission. Our Commission is proud of the fact that our government ended fiscal year 2008 with a $384,251 surplus.
Commissioners have not raised taxes, used reserves or laid off employees. Our county government spent $21 million less than was budgeted, in large part because of a hiring freeze imposed a year ago.
Cobb has not been spared from the economic downtown. A stark example is that in December 2008 there were only eight residential building permits issued in Cobb Countyâ€” eight --- compared to 707 in December 2007.
That is all the more reason not to do anything that would make it more expensive to buy homes. The homebuilding industry is the heart of Georgia's economy. Our state is not going to recover until homebuilding recovers. It is simple as that. We have to tough this out.
Families know how to tough it out. They cut spending and live within their means. There is no outside source for them to tax when they need more money. We should not make it any harder on them than it already is.
Depending on the federal government for some sort of bailout is a shaky proposition with strings attached. The state of Georgia is capable of balancing its budget without tax increases. It may be difficult. But at this point there isn't any better option.
Sam Olens is chairman of the Cobb County Commission and the Atlanta Regional Commission.