Mike Klein Online

Another View Piece Published by Atlanta Journal-Constitution

(This article was published in the Sunday April 15 Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Mike Klein

This year, Georgia legislators took down some barriers in tax, pension and criminal justice reform but they whiffed on creating a state-assisted venture capital investments model. Next January, they need to take another step forward in tax reform, monitor the start of criminal justice reforms, enact juvenile code reforms and create a real strategy around venture capital investments.

Tax reform this year included sales tax changes to benefit industry, the beginning of the end for the hated annual tax paid on personal vehicles, sales tax added to some online purchases and a gimmicky sales tax holiday. That is not enough. Comprehensive tax reform must include a decision — or at least a full blown discussion — about whether to revise the state’s 6 percent maximum income tax rate, which is widely considered to be non-competitive against states like Florida and Tennessee with no state income tax. Proponents of, say, a 3 percent to 4 percent maximum rate argue it will benefit Georgia’s emerging high-tech and bioscience industries.

One way to offset the change in income tax revenue would be to revise the state sales tax. That would require lots of buy-in over the next year. Income taxes fund about half the state budget. Local governments will be concerned about the impact of changes.

Two bills attempted to stimulate Georgia’s nascent venture capital investments industry. Both were controversial, highly political and neither passed the Legislature. Georgia continues to incubate businesses that move to other states when they need more venture capital. The Legislature must deal with this issue before more businesses and jobs lost.

Pension reform is another barrier that began to come down this year. The state Employees Retirement System is now authorized to invest up to 5 percent (about $750 million) of its available total assets (about $14.9 billion) in venture capital pools and other private placements specifically named in legislation. Georgia public sector pensions are well-funded in comparison to many states. However, public sector pensions nationally are under pressure as boomers begin to retire and state revenue is slow to recover from the recession. Eventually, the teachers’ retirement system should be included. Currently it is not, which is their choice.

Everyone agreed it is time to move forward with criminal justice reforms that will emphasize treatment over incarceration for some low-level property offenders and drug users. This is recognition that current strategies created swollen prison populations and caused havoc with budgets. Adult system reforms will take years to implement and it will be impossible to evaluate their success soon.

Georgia’s juvenile code, unchanged for decades, came up short this year. Gov. Nathan Deal’s office put on the brakes until there is a better understanding of the financial impact. There is universal support for changing this code that regulates foster care, permanent placement hearings, adoption codes, family mitigation hearings, status offenders and parental rights. This bill should become law next year if the financial analysis makes sense.

(Mike Klein is editor at  the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Cynthia Tucker Swings at Liz Cheney, Misses the Point

Cynthia Tucker doesn’t hold a seat in the United States Senate. She doesn’t have the power to call committee hearings to intimidate those who dare disagree with her. And she isn’t practicing her demagoguery in an era of widespread fear of an existential threat.  Nevertheless, she has slipped easily into the role of Joseph McCarthy.

Sound familiar?  Substitute “Liz Cheney” for “Cynthia Tucker” in the first sentence and you have the first paragraph of Tucker’s Atlanta Journal & Constitution column published Friday morning.  Tucker believes in the U.S. Constitution and free speech for anyone who agrees with Cynthia Tucker. Continue reading

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing Job Leaves Colleague “Feeling Bruised”

This past week two more colleagues joined the half million plus Georgians who are out of work.   They toiled for big companies, Coca-Cola and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who apparently have not heard we are in an economic rebound made possible by the Barack Obama administration.

They entered the ranks of newly laid off professionals the same week the White House admitted the inevitable:  Official unemployment will remain around 10% nationally all year and that is not good news for any politician, Republican, Democrat or Tea Party.   One told me she is “feeling bruised.”

Perhaps they are just a bit fortunate.  Now they can reinvent.  Think about all the poor folks back in the office who sit around all day, fearful someone has painted a target on them.  The best part is they no longer have to get up in the morning and wonder, is this the day they send me home? Continue reading

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GOP Power Play, Obamacare, Space Taxis and Newt!

Friday morning’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution headline that screamed “Governor seeks a shake-up” was counter-punched by the next morning’s headline “Critics pound Perdue plan.”  The November headline should say “Voters KO GOP Power Grab Plan.”  This was a bad idea from the start.  And if it’s such a good idea now, why didn’t we hear about this until Sonny Perdue’s eighth year in office?

The basic plan goes like this: Perdue proposed that starting after 2014 elections the governor would appoint four currently elected officials: commissioners at labor, education and insurance, along with state superintendent of education.  This will ostensibly make for better, more efficient government and ensure that really good people hold those jobs. Continue reading

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment