It’s that time again: time to show up at the voting booth, make it to the end of your ballot and realize there are some questions you were completely unprepared to answer.
Fear not! I’m back to explain these questions so you have a better idea of how you want to answer these questions. I won’t tell you how to vote, but I will try to help you understand what a “yes” or a “no” means in practical terms. I can only address those questions being asked statewide, so you’re on your own with any local questions.
Let’s get to it:
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1: “Provides for suspension of compensation of certain State officers and members of the General Assembly.”
Currently, certain statewide officers (e.g., the governor or labor commissioner) or state legislators who are indicted for a felony related to their office are subject to suspension until either the case or their term concludes. However, a suspended official continues to receive his salary until or unless he’s removed from office.
Voting “yes” on this amendment would mean the official’s pay is also suspended until the case is resolved or his term ends (should he be reinstated, he would receive back pay). Voting “no” on this amendment would mean suspended officials continue to draw their salary.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 2: “Provides for temporary local tax relief after disasters.”
The Georgia Constitution requires “uniformity” in the taxation of private property such as land. One practical result is that local taxing authorities set all property values as of Jan. 1 of the tax year. Should a disaster occur later in the year – such as a tornado that destroys one’s home – the property’s taxable value would have been set prior to the disaster, when it may have been higher than it is at the time of collection.
Voting “yes” on this amendment would allow – but not require – local governments to diverge from uniformity to give relief to property owners within a nationally declared disaster area. Voting “no” would prevent local governments from doing so.
Statewide Referendum Question A: “Provides for ad valorem tax exemption for certain timber production, reforestation, and harvesting equipment.”
Current law exempts certain heavy equipment used for farming – such as tractors and combines, but not motor vehicles – from ad valorem taxes. Similar equipment used for timber production, such as various dozers, graders and loaders, as well as machinery such as chippers and delimbers, is not exempt.
Voting “yes” on this question would add equipment used for timber production to the list of exemptions. Voting “no” would mean such equipment remains subject to ad valorem taxes.
Statewide Referendum Question B: “Expands ad valorem tax exemption for family-owned farms and adds qualified products to the exemption.”
Today, an agricultural company is exempt from certain taxes if classified as a “family farm” under state law. For example, its owners must be related to one another within four degrees (such as a woman and her first cousin, or her great-great-grandfather). However, that company would lose this exemption if it were to merge with another such entity.
Additionally, certain farm products, such as livestock or annual plants, are exempt from ad valorem taxes under certain conditions, including if they are held by a family farm. But others, such as dairy products and unfertilized poultry eggs, are not exempt.
Voting “yes” on this question would allow for merged family farms to retain their exemption and would add dairy products and unfertilized poultry eggs to the list of farm products which may qualify for a tax exemption. Voting “no” would maintain current law.
Although three of these four ballot questions deal with taxation, the revenue implications are unclear. In some cases, such as the proposed disaster relief, it would be purely circumstantial. In others, such as referendum questions A and B, it would depend on behavior: the amount of equipment purchased, future mergers of family farms and production of the goods in question.