Author: Kelly McCutchen

Florida Keeps Raising the Bar

Florida Governor Rick Scott took office last week and appears ready to stand behind the kind of reforms that made Florida a national leader in education reform and positive results for students under former Governor Jeb Bush. His education transition team proposed several bold reforms including: Parents could receive 85 percent of their child's per-pupil grant to use for private school tuition, virtual schooling or private tutoring. Since those options typically cost less per pupil than public education, the state would conceivably save 15 percent. Students would be allowed to take online classes full-time, part-time or by individual courses. A new classification of charters – High Performing Charter Schools – would receive greater operational flexibility, equitable funding, expedited approval processes… View Article

“Right on Crime” Message Resonating

Our “right on crime” message is resonating with elected officials. Speaker David Ralston addressed the subject earlier this month and Governor Nathan Deal made criminal justice a major part of his inaugural speech. From an interview with Speaker Ralston on January 6: “We’re going to have to start a discussion, I believe, about our policy in terms of how we incarcerate people in Georgia. I’m not sure where that discussion ultimately will lead to,” said Ralston, a one-time candidate for attorney general. We’re spending a huge amount of money locking people up that have drug problems. At some point the people of Georgia have a right to ask if that’s an appropriate way to spend their tax dollars.”… View Article

Personal vs. Professional Services (or why not tax lawyers?!)

Tax experts agree that the appropriate sales tax base should include all goods and services purchased by the final consumer, which also implies business purchases should be exempt. The challenge is applying these principles while considering practical and political realities. During the Tax Council's press conference, A.D. Frazier discussed the rationale used by the Council in determing what services to tax. He said they tried to minimize compliance costs for taxpayers. One way they did this was focusing on vendors who were already filing sales taxes because they sell some type of tangible property. For example, the service department at your local automobile dealership already charges sales tax on parts — it's not too difficult for them to add the… View Article

Simplifying the Tax Code

Simplicity was one of the goals of tax reform. The recommendations of the Tax Council make excellent progress in this respect. Unfortunately, the media has not reported these significant changes. In moving the income tax to a "flat tax," most exemptions and deductions are removed and six tax brackets are collapsed into one flat rate. Other than simple tables for low-income families to lookup their tax credit and some minor adjustments to federal adjusted gross income for a small number of taxpayers, only a few lines would be necessary for the majority of filers. Remember Dick Armey promising you could file your income taxes on a post card? Sales tax exemptions for business inputs get a major simplification. (There is… View Article

Tax Increase or Not?

It's too early to tell if the Tax Council's recommendations will result in a tax increase. The Council says their aim was to be revenue neutral, but the report (probably due to the lack of some critical information) makes it seem otherwise. There are three calculations missing from the Tax Council's report: 1) The report calls for fewer Georgia-specific adjustments to federal adjusted gross income. How much will this broaden the personal income tax base? 2) The report calls for eliminating all exemptions and deductions except for a dependent exemption of $2,000. How much will this broaden the personal income tax base? 3) The report calls for tax credits designed to offset the loss of exemptions, deductions and the tax… View Article

First Reaction to the Tax Council Recommendations

While some may quibble with the details, and some adjustments will certainly be made, if enacted, the Tax Council’s pro-growth tax reforms will make Georgia a national model. Expect many states to follow our lead in the near future. The recommendation creates a true flat tax on income and incrementally shifts revenues to a broad retail sales tax. Both income and consumption would be taxed at a low rate of 4 percent and the tax code would be simplified. Expanded targeted tax credits would protect low-income senior citizens and families. While we would hope that a tax increase is not necessary, the Council’s mandate was to recommend the best possible tax base — what we tax and how we tax… View Article

Joel Klein on Education Lessons Learned

Joel Klein had some interested comments in this weekend's Wall Street Journal: First, it is wrong to assert that students' poverty and family circumstances severely limit their educational potential. It's now proven that a child who does poorly with one teacher could have done very well with another.  … Second, traditional proposals for improving education—more money, better curriculum, smaller classes, etc.—aren't going to get the job done. Public education is a service-delivery challenge, and it must be operated as such.  … Our embrace of charter schools was especially controversial. But why should any student have to settle for a neighborhood school if it's awful? The debate shouldn't be about whether a school is a traditional or charter public school.… View Article

Schools Should Look to Online Options Before Cutting Foreign Language and AP Courses

Tom Vander Ark writes that online offerings can help schools address tight budgets without reducing course options for students. The Georgia Virtual School run by the Georgia Department of Education offers 22 AP classes and six foreign languages including Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Latin. Some districts are cutting subjects like foreign language. EdWeek points to a WI example. ”According to a recent study, schools across the nation are doing the same—eliminating foreign language instruction and undermining a skill that economists and educators agree is one of the most overlooked but essential navigation skills in a global economy.” One of the benefits of online learning is that states and districts can expand offerings and save money. Every district should… View Article

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is a driving force for market-based solutions to policy challenges. The work done by this outstanding organization is making a real impact on the future of Georgia. I personally consider the Foundation a primary source for policy ideas. All Georgians are better off because the Foundation is helping lead the critical policy debates in our state.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers more quotes