GOP Ga. lawmaker: No tax hikes to balance budget

AP News
Posted: Dec 24, 2009 9:05 AM

The lawmaker who is all but certain to be Georgia's next House speaker said he won't raise taxes to balance the recession-wracked state budget.

State Rep. David Ralston called tax hikes "a totally counterproductive thing to do" in the sour economy where unemployment in Georgia tops 10 percent.

"People are hurting," the Blue Ridge Republican said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "They're wondering about how they're going to buy their kids presents, how they're going to pay their bills, they're worried about what happens if they have a health care crisis in their family."

"The last thing they need is for the government to take more of their money."

Ralston was selected last week by the GOP caucus to succeed Speaker Glenn Richardson, who's leaving Jan. 1 after a suicide attempt and allegations of an affair with a lobbyist.

He must still be voted on by the full House when they return to the Capitol Jan. 11. Republicans hold a 105-74 majority in the House so Ralston his selection as speaker is all but assured.

Ralston said he expects deep cuts will be needed to make up for what could be a more than $1 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

"We'll be looking at what state government is doing that maybe it doesn't need to be doing," he said.

Ralston said he wants to evaluate tax cuts given to particular industries or businesses and evaluate how much economic benefit they have provided for the state.

But even with the state staring down a historic budget shortfall, Ralston said tax cuts may be possible. He said he liked some of the small business tax credits that were in a sweeping tax package Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed last year. Some of the proposals sought to give companies a $500 credit toward the unemployment insurance tax and a $2,400 income tax credit for each new employee they hire.

The relatively modest tax cut plan was amended last session so that it would have cut the state capital gains tax in half over two years. Perdue vetoed the measure, arguing that ripping such a large hole in the state revenues would have been devastating given the bleak economic picture.