published Monday, December 6th, 2010

Georgia educator urges tax hike for schools

The new president of the Georgia Association of Educators is reviving her predecessor’s call for a half-cent state sales tax hike to fund education and adding a push for higher tobacco taxes.

In an interview, Calvine Rollins, who replaced Jeff Hubbard, wouldn’t estimate how much the taxes would raise.

“But I do know for a fact that it would generate ... enough to see our teachers not be furloughed any more, and it would definitely help the class sizes decrease,” she said. The money would be earmarked solely for education, she said.

Austerity cuts to education funding that started in 2003 have totaled almost $2 billion over the past seven years, she said. Fresh funding could offset some of those losses before further cuts scuttle recent positive strides in academic performance, she said.

She said the sales tax increase would expire in five years unless lawmakers enacted an extension. She did not say whether the tobacco tax would be permanent.

GEORGIA’S K-12 AUSTERITY CUTS

Fiscal year / Reduction

2003: $134,933,642

2004: $283,478,659

2005: $332,838,099

2006: $332,838,092

2007: $169,745,895

2008: $142,959,810

2009: $495,723,830

2010: $936,342,040

Total: $2,828,860,067

Source: Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Georgia Parent Teachers Association

Rollins said GAE officials have met with lawmakers but are not ready to name a legislator who might carry the proposals to the General Assembly.

“We feel we have friends on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “We feel very optimistic about the upcoming session.”

But Rep. Jay Neal, R-LaFayette, said it is unlikely either idea will get a warm reception when the Republican-dominated Georgia Legislature convenes in January.

“While I certainly appreciate and understand the concerns of educators — we’ve had significant cuts in education over the last couple of years — we have protected education considerably, and we’ll continue to try to protect education moving forward,” Neal said.

“I don’t think there’ll be that much of an appetite in legislature for an increase in sales tax,” he said.

Neal said he’s interested to see how legislators react to a proposed tobacco tax increase, but warned that conservative lawmakers won’t warm to higher taxes.

“Our No. 1 priority is to balance the budget without raising taxes on Georgians. We’ll be going into session with that thought in mind,” he said.

Chickamauga business owner Monty Daggett, 45, said he understands schools and teachers need help but he’s leery of increased taxes without assurances of where the money will be spent.

“I’m never for a tax increase, but as much as the teachers are struggling in the state I think they could use the help,” said Daggett, one of the owners of the Old Mill General Store. He said a fellow owner’s wife is a teacher in Chickamauga and he’s seen the impact of education funding cuts first hand.

“They keep forcing them to take furlough days,” he said. “They seem to be suffering the brunt of the shortfalls.”

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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tnguy25 said...

Instead of raising the taxes on tobacco even higher...why not look to tax other things. Like say alcohol?! I've seen graphs where in one year taxes on cigs increased 200% Whereas beer and alcohol increased only 15%. Something doesn't sit well with me over that. Why not decrease the pay of the "admin" in the school system boards?

In dalton, ga one 'admin' was getting paid over 200k a year. For what I always asked myself, seems all the 'admin' does is sit on her ever growing arse and squawk over cuts to payroll for the teachers and principals. Then she get's "upset" that they had to lower the 'admins' pay.

I call it pure bs

December 6, 2010 at 7:50 p.m.
ann said...

I to am fed up with this bunch always wanting tax increases so they can support their pensions,and get pay hikes well they need to get cuts to their pay and start earning what they do get instead of gripping and wanting more,if they can't make it on what they are getting then lets do like other companies do close down the schools,what happen to the home owner and tax payer having a little of their paycheck to spend their selves,this school buiness has gotten to be nothing but a rackett over money,well get another job like the rest of us poor tax paying americans do you have worn out our sympathy for you,look what a mess the schools are in and all the money that has been spent on education hasn't helped anyone,except illegals and overpaid teachers

December 6, 2010 at 9:58 p.m.
ann said...

I just wanted to comment about taxing tobacco,why should it be taxed anymore,why not alcohol,there is more harm more deaths from alcohol,then tobacco,but yet the lawmakers don't seem to talk about banning it and keeping it out of these kids hands,they have laws about drinking and selling to minors,but how many do you see in the paper everyday about underage drinkers been caught,they get a big fine and the law overlooks it till they catch them again,then they get a bigger fine probation then again to prison they go boy don't we have a great system,no wonder they want to keep building prisons and jails ,when if they used the sense God gave them most of this would not even be needed,so yes we are doing a real good job of educating our children ,by the way i don't smoke or drink

December 6, 2010 at 10:15 p.m.
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