Getting creative with Georgia taxes

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The Gold Dome of Georgia's Capitol. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

With the Georgia Legislature back in session, new laws that will greatly improve the lives of every Georgian are now being discussed intelligently by the caring folks we elected into office.

Or maybe not.

I have a theory that most new laws are crafted to divert money from the people to politicians.

Those in charge don’t like the word “tax” — it gives opponents too much ammo come reelection time — but they have no problem with fees or other sly ways of getting more of our money.

User fees such as tolls are popular. I remember a time when Georgia had only one toll road — the F.J. Torres Causeway (aka “the bridge to St. Simons Island”). The toll was 35 cents.

Politicians sensed there were more cars in Atlanta so they brought the idea up here. It has worked. In fiscal year 2015 the state collected $10.3 million in toll revenue from 7.1 million electronically tolled trips on I-85 in Gwinnett County, according to the State Road and Tollway financial statements.

That was a 34 percent increase over 2014, so more toll lanes are coming soon to I-75 in Clayton, Henry, Cobb and Cherokee counties.

I can’t predict the future, but you may soon need a Peach Pass to leave your driveway.

Yes, politicians can be clever, but if they want to keep collecting another billion or so every year they will need to get downright Machiavellian.

As usual, I am here to help.

  • Smartphone addiction surcharge: Every time someone wakes their screen to check on whatever unimportant thing may or may not be happening, they pay a penny. Other than raking in millions, this tax will encourage people in elevators to interact as humans.
  • Elevator sloth tax: Speaking of elevators, if a co-worker interrupts your ride just so they can avoid walking one flight of stairs they must donate $1 to the state (or the office candy jar).
  • I-285 parking fee: Why let the other major interstates make all the money? There’s plenty of people sitting in their cars on topside I-285 every morning and afternoon. The GPS coordinates of drivers will be regularly polled and those who are immobile are electronically assessed a “not so hot” lane fee for future transportation improvements.
  • Sports venue construction tax: Any time a team builds a new facility it pays 10 percent of the new construction costs directly to the state unless they have just won a national championship. If government has paid more than 10 percent of stadium construction costs the politicians who concocted the deal must resign immediately.
  • Crying child fee: Silence is golden, but uncontrolled outbursts during movies or in quiet restaurants equals gold for the state.
  • MARTA delay fine: Any time a bus or train is more than 10 minutes overdue, everyone waiting gets a free ride and MARTA pays a fine equal to the lost ticket revenue. Being MARTA, they can pay the fine late.
  • Full streetcar levy: Every time the Atlanta streetcar is so packed you can’t get on the city pays a fine. Just kidding, no one rides that thing.
  • Rigged casino earnings: Pass a law that legalizes gambling, but make sure the games rarely let people win. Gamblers, the lottery has taught state accountants, are not deterred by ludicrous odds.

OK, some of those aren’t fair. And giving politicians more money to spend isn’t high on my priority list.

Maybe this year legislators will find ways to spend less and help people more. And with that final joke I am out of here.

 


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