I had no clue how to vote until I looked up what politicians were saying about this particular amendment. It was so confusingly written (and honestly, that includes the original language they were editing. UGH).
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?
Who Do What???
Then I read what Governor Nathan Deal said, “Georgia’s working forests generate significant economic investment in our local communities due to the contributions of those who replenish and protect our natural resources. This legislation supports our timber growers and lessens the economic burden of producing quality products that sustain numerous industries, from construction to manufacturing.”
I added the underline. In my experience this is coded language for “helping my rich buddies.” See when I looked at the actual text – this applies to timer land 200 acres or more. 200 acres. That’s a LOT of land. The cheapest plot I could find listed in GA was 1/4 of a million dollars ($225,000) for just over 200 acres. (ok, there was one listed for $190k but it wasn’t contiguous. It was broken up across several plots. ONLY $190k you guys….)
I also read this write-up by UGA (PDF) and it sounds like it’s making it easier for people with timber on their 200+ acres of land to get tax breaks. Specifically, “They introduce more options for forest landowners in Georgia when it is time to choose which tax incentive program to use and grant more flexibility to landowners to keep their land in forests.”
What really convinced me how I’m going to vote is this analysis in the Calhoun Times, “f it is not necessary for some compelling purpose to give this tax break, it is questionable whether this one type of property should receive a reduced tax valuation as opposed to other types of real property: homes, factories, stores or farm land.”
Thank God for a lawyer making it make sense. I agree. I don’t see a compelling reason (or the law makers have done a terrible job of presenting it) for timber owners of 200+ acres get a tax break no one else gets. IF this is “conservation” they did NOT explain that AT ALL.
In other words, if I don’t understand an amendment my reaction of “fine, i’ll vote AGAINST” was justified (lol). This is why I try really hard to find information on these things. I don’t know about y’all but it’s confusing and frustrating, but finding some other sources…. that helps a lot.