Friday, October 17, 2008

Somebody Say, "Amen-dments"!

Having spent all of two hours reviewing the text of the proposed amendments to the constitution of the state of Georgia that appear on the 2008 general election ballot and, having considered a variety (i.e. 2) outside opinions on these matters, I offer this informal voter guide. It may not be much, but it is better than having to figure out how to vote if you enter the polling booth without a clue.

Besides, I have come up with catchy names for the propositions, which counts for something, I hope.

Amendment 1 - The Ransoming Our Forests Amendment
This amendment provides tax incentives for people to not destroy the tracts of forest land - 200 acres or more - that they own, at least not for the next 15 years. Conservationists appear to be uniformly in favor of this measure. The Urban Independents voter guide, admitting that this one is a hard call, suggests a "no" vote, saying,
if our priority is to permanently preserve land we should vote directly to raise taxes or sell bonds to do so.
I agree in theory, but the approach to the problem that they suggest may not be enacted soon enough to preserve the forest land under threat.
  • I am going to vote "yes" on Amendment 1.
Amendment 2 - The "How Badly Do You Want the BeltLine?" Amendment
From the same kind of minds that brought you collateralized debt obligations, comes the idea of the TAD, the tax allocation district, a creative way to finance projects such as the BeltLine, which will require billions of dollars to develop over a period of 20 years or more, but is, perhaps, one of the few remaining opportunities to refashion the city of Atlanta as a vibrant urban community.

The question before us is not the legitimacy of TADs per se, but whether school boards should be allowed to participate in them. There are those who believe that the funding of schools is sacrosanct, outside the rough and tumble give and take of "ordinary" politics. I guess I disagree. If school boards decide that it is in their interest to support such projects as the BeltLine, then I won't stand in their way.
  • Count me in the "yes" column for Amendment 2.
Amendment 3 - The Mini-Me Government Replacement Amendment
OK, so maybe the mini-me reference from the Austin Powers movies is a little obscure, but how else to characterize this proposal that allows for the effective transfer of traditional government powers - taxation, leaving the government to do the tax collection, no less - to non-government entities, whomever they might be?

The idea of extending the prerogatives of elected governments to so-called infrastructure development districts seems misguided. I had considered calling this one the "Foxes in Charge of the Hen House" amendment, but thought that would come off as too provocative. Maybe not.
  • Amendment 3 is a big "no" for me.
Erosion of Our Tax Base Initiatives
Aside from the statewide amendments, there are the usual local homestead tax exemption proposals on the various city and county ballots. I don't investigate these much, since they, in my mind, would be more accurately described as property tax reduction initiatives. They are seldom based on the need of the designated beneficiaries and never prescribe means by which lost tax revenues could be replaced.
  • Just say "no" to homestead exemptions, as far as I am concerned.

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