Fulton County “starve the beast” bill passes House

Legislation to double the homestead exemption would cost the county millions in revenue

In a rare duex ex legistra move, House Speaker David Ralston this morning delivered the 120th vote needed to help his second-in-command, Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, avoid losing face in getting her bill passed to raise Fulton County’s homestead exemption to $60,000.

The maneuver was necessitated by the refusal of any Democrats to defect, even those in places that faced GOP reprisals. House Majority Leader Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, on Monday had used a procedural move to hold up a number of Democrat-sponsored bills that had already passed the House and threatened to scuttle the bills unless Jones’ House Bill 541 were passed.

Doubling the homestead exemption is estimated to cost the county about $48 million in property tax revenue, a loss that Jones has argued would force the county to reduce its budget and downsized its operations.

It’s interesting to note that while Republican legislators are eager to force local elected officials to make tough decisions, they’ve repeatedly chickened out on tough decisions they’ve faced themselves. For instance, Gov. Deal moved the vote for a new Falcons stadium from the Gold Dome across the street to Atlanta City Hall after enough GOP lawmakers complained that while they privately supported a new stadium, they were afraid to have it on their voting record.