Governor abandons former haunt of GOP rival for tax cut

BONAIRE — Governor Brian Kemp took his bill-signing tour to the heart of Perdue Country on Tuesday.

The governor traveled to the hometown of his GOP challenger David Perdue on Tuesday and sat at a table in the cramped quarters of Perdue’s favorite restaurant, the White Diamond Grill in Bonaire, to sign the law. a tax reduction plan as lawmakers and local officials thronged the restaurant in the small town.

Beginning in 2024, the state’s six-bracket income tax rate, which today caps at 5.75%, would be flattened and reduced to 5.49%. It would then continue to decline gradually, but only if certain revenue growth indicators are met.

“We can’t fix everything Washington has broken, but we’re doing our part to ease the pain in people’s wallets here in Georgia, and today we’ll put in place a longer-term relief system,” he said. said Kemp. .

Governor Brian Kemp and Chancellor of the University System of Georgia Sonny Perdue shake hands during a groundbreaking ceremony for a meat snack company in Perry. Grant Blankenship/GPB

About an hour later, Kemp sat onstage with Georgia University System Chancellor Sonny Perdue — a first cousin of former U.S. Senator David Perdue — for the grand opening of a meat snack company, Jack Links, which plans to create 800 jobs. Sonny Perdue introduced Kemp, describing him as a friend of 20 years.

The move through David Perdue’s home county highlights the election-year political tensions among Georgia’s conservatives right now. White Diamond Grill owner Charlie Jay says he remains neutral.

“They’re both good friends,” Jay said.

Kemp’s re-election bid has faced headwinds, with former President Donald Trump determined to punish the governor for refusing to help overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Trump criticized Kemp at every opportunity, boasted David Perdue in commercials and at a rally and donated $500,000 to an anti-Kemp Super PAC.

But with the primary about a month away, new polls show Kemp well ahead of Perdue. The governor had a 57% lead over Perdue’s 27% in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Tuesday, suggesting Kemp could win the GOP nomination without a runoff. The winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall.

The governor is in the midst of a bill-signing tour that has so far seen him sign license-free legislation outside a Douglasville armory, a military retirement income tax exemption near Fort Benning and a list of pro-law enforcement bills in Buckhead.

Kemp plans to travel to Cumming on Thursday to sign several controversial education bills, including one that was quietly changed at the last minute to include a provision that could ban transgender athletes from playing on women’s sports teams in public high schools.

The income tax proposal was a GOP priority this year, covered by rising state revenues for now, though it has also won over most Democratic lawmakers. Some candidates — like Perdue — have campaigned for the total abolition of the income tax, which funds half of the state budget.

“Nothing screams more conservative than a good old fashioned tax cut,” Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan told the White Diamond Grill.

But it’s unclear exactly when Georgia taxpayers would see the 4.99% rate contemplated in the bill. The rate could take effect as early as 2029, but may not happen that soon due to triggers, such as 3% revenue growth, needed for additional annual reductions.

“They’re going to see immediate relief with what we’ve done this year, which is important,” Kemp told reporters Tuesday. He also trumpeted other forms of short-term relief, such as the suspension of the state gasoline tax and a one-time refund of excess revenue being processed.

The tax cut is expected to cost at least $1 billion, although analysts are still estimating the total cost over time. The left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute has brought the price closer to $2 billion when fully implemented and says the largest share would go to the top 5% who earn more than $250,000 a year.

“Moving to a flat tax structure would weaken the state’s ability to meet the needs of its residents, while exacerbating racial and income inequality by widening the gap between the wealthiest and all other Georgians,” said Danny Kanso, GBPI’s senior tax adviser. fiscal policy analyst.