GOP gov candidate vows to eliminate income tax for military

Sen. Mike Crane (left), R-Newnan, and Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, confer. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Republican Michael Williams said he would eliminate the state income tax for active duty and retired military members if he was elected governor, a move that his campaign estimated would cost at least $200 million.

“While we may receive positive lip service, we know the establishment of both parties will fight this at every turn,” Williams said. “Eliminating Georgia’s income tax for everyone is a top priority for my campaign. A sensible place to start is with military pay.”

The proposal is not likely to get very far during next year’s legislative session. House and Senate leaders couldn’t broker an agreement on tax cuts last year, and Gov. Nathan Deal urged candidates running to succeed him to resist the “temptation” of broader changes to the tax system that could jeopardize the state’s revenue base.

Williams campaign manager Seth Weathers said the tax cuts would cost between $200 million to $300 million and that “simply freezing the budget” would help pay for the cost.

But it’s not as simple as that. Our AJC colleague James Salzer reports that the state takes in an extra $700 million to $900 million in tax collections every year, but much of that increase is taken up by growing enrollment in K-12 schools and universities, the rising cost of Medicaid and increased costs to the state’s pension system.

As a result, Deal’s office recently warned state agencies, there’s little room left for discretionary spending in the state’s budget.

Insider’s note: This item was ripped from the Morning Jolt.

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To reward their service and to help recruit future service members, the state of Georgia should fully exempt military pensions (retired pay) from state income tax. Also, in my case, not one year of my 25 years on active military service was spent as a Georgia resident. In this light this seems extremely unfair for my pension to be subjected to the state tax. Plus, many of my years in the service were spent in arduous circumstances and in potentially harm’s way to my well-being. Bottom line: Georgia veterans and military retirees should be allowed to subtract 100 percent of their military pensions/retirement payments when computing state income tax. And it should not matter at what age they retire at since most will retire and receive a military pension well before they are 50 years old. These pensions are now currently considered taxable income up to the full amount. Why?I feel that exempting military pensions from Georgia state income tax is a way to show veterans that we appreciate them and want them to stay in Georgia to help build an even greater state. We need their skills, their patriotism and their sense of service, and a great way to do this is by letting them keep extra money they well deserve. Additionally, according to my research military retirees are highly valued as middle and upper managers and providing this exemption would help attract and keep veterans in the Georgia workplace. But Georgia’s taxing of military pensions on top of its 6% income tax rate on other income is another factor that would keep perspective retiree’s from our military services from staying or relocating here…just another crucial reason to exempt military pensions totally!  Cheers, Bobby Komlo, Lake Wildwood