For The Record

Kemp counters Abrams economic plan with tax rebates

By: - August 11, 2022 5:55 pm

Gov. Brian Kemp proposes two $1 billion tax rebates if he is victorious against Stacey Abrams in November. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Gov. Brian Kemp proposed a combined $2 billion in tax rebates Thursday that could return about $1,000 to taxpayers if approved by state lawmakers early next year.

Kemp, who is facing a November rematch election with Democrat Stacey Abrams, made the announcement at the state Capitol just days after Abrams unveiled her economic plans for the state.

The first prong of Kemp’s proposal is a $1 billion income tax refund which – like this year’s refund – would provide $250 for single filers, $375 for a head of household filer and $500 for a married couple filing jointly.

Kemp also called for a $1 billion home property tax rebate, which he said would average about $500 per homeowner.

The rebate would mirror a tax break that lawmakers started in 1999 under then-Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes but scuttled in the lean days of the Great Recession. If the plan becomes law, the state will send an amount of money to local governments to offset local taxes. The refund would only apply to owner-occupied primary residence homes, and Kemp said the rebates would be one-time only.

“We have great days ahead in our state because we’ve been open, we’re creating jobs and we have good opportunity,” he said at a press conference Thursday. “My focus is on that. I wouldn’t want to speculate on years down the road, again, this is one-time money. I don’t want to give any illusions that we’re doing something for the next decade. We’re trying to help Georgians fight through this tough time now.”

During this year’s session, Kemp signed off on an income tax cut as well as a gas tax suspension, which he has continually renewed.

Kemp sought to tie the high food and energy prices putting strain on Georgians with the policies of President Joe Biden and Abrams, a key political Biden ally in Georgia.

“The state now has a record budget surplus, but I believe that isn’t the government’s money, it’s yours,” he said. “And our job isn’t to spend it all just because we can. You elected us to fulfill the essential duties of government and return the rest of the taxpayers. Because you know what is best to provide for you and your family, not the government.”

Kemp credited that budget surplus to the other powerful Republicans who stood behind him during his remarks, including House Speaker David Ralston. The state has also benefited from billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid, which Kemp has criticized as a driver of inflation.

In a Tuesday address, Abrams pledged to reinvest the state’s $5 billion-plus budget surplus into programs she said will help residents, such as rural broadband programs, small business financing and infrastructure projects.

“We have a windfall,” she said. “But the question is, what will we do with it? Now, some, namely, my opponent, will argue that handing out a few thousand dollars here or there in tax refunds is more than enough. But as anyone who has fixed a broken house knows, there’s a big difference between slapping on some paint or making significant repairs that will make a home safe and strong.”

Abrams is also calling for the legalization of sports betting and casinos in Georgia, with the goal of using the tax proceeds to fund a needs-based scholarship program and increase access to technical college.

Abrams blamed Republicans for a decline in per-capita income compared with other states during the last 20 years.

“Too often when Georgia has faced crossroads, Republicans have used their power on behalf of the rich and the more powerful at the expense of the rest of us,” she said. “Tax cuts for the wealthy instead of saving rural hospitals. Billions in incentives for big businesses, but scraps for the little guy. Cuts to education and millions to political allies.”

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting.