Conyers resident Corey Cooper plans to buy a chainsaw to help maintain his property with his tax refund. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

People have mixed feelings about governor’s proposed tax refunds

The Gist

Georgians are likely to receive two one-time tax refunds this year if lawmakers approve Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal this legislative session. An income tax refund will mean $250 for single filers and $500 for joint filers this spring, and homeowners are likely to get about $500 in property tax refunds by year’s end.

The tax refunds will cost the state about $2.1 billion, to be drawn from the $6.6 billion in surplus funds from fiscal year 2022, which ended last June. What will an extra $250 to $1,000 in the household budget mean for most people?

What Taxpayers Are Saying

“It would be awesome to get it,” said Corey Cooper, 44, a barber who lives in Conyers. Recent storms and a lightning strike have split a tree and knocked down trees and branches all over his 5 1/2-acre property. He said he’ll put the property tax refund “back into my home” and plans to buy a top-of-the-line chainsaw to cut up all the branches. The chainsaw, he said, will cost about $500. He plans to save the other $250.

Traffic supervisor Chris McCart hopes to use his tax refund to dig himself out of debt.
Traffic supervisor Chris McCart hopes to use his tax refund to dig himself out of debt. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

A traffic supervisor for a construction company, Chris McCart, 27, plans to use the $250 he’s likely to receive to dig himself out of credit card debt. He’s currently living in a room in his sister’s house in McDonough while he saves and rebuilds his credit. “That money will help me get ahead of the game,” he said.

Adam Wright, a communications expert currently on disability, said he would rather see his family’s $1,000 refund “go to the people in Georgia who need it most.”

“We have a lot of people living on a subsistence level. It would have more impact on them than the rest of us who are doing better,” said Wright, 47, who lives in East Atlanta with his longtime partner Elizabeth Allen, a product manager and owner of their home. Nonetheless, he said they’ll probably end up spending the refunds on home improvement projects.

“A thousand dollars helps, but it honestly doesn’t make a big difference for us,” he added. “I know direct cash payments could help other people stay whole. And that affects crime, it affects health care, it affects everything.” 

Debra Saunders, 57, who manages a day care center and owns a home in south Dekalb, agreed. 

“They need to send that money where it’s really needed, like permanent shelter for homeless people, and providing Medicaid for the uninsured,” she said. “Everybody in the state doesn’t need to get that back.”

Saunders said she’ll likely end up spending the $750 in funds she’s expected to get on home gas bills, as rates have gone up sharply over last year. But she wishes the working and middle-class parents of the children she serves at her day care could get more money in the form of child care subsidies. 

“People are really struggling to pay for child care and make ends meet so they can keep their jobs,” she said. “I wish they would use that surplus on the realities that people are actually struggling with.”

What’s Next

While the state has enjoyed robust tax collections, record surplus and low unemployment over the past year, the state’s chief economist expects state tax revenue to dip as much as $3 billion this year, primarily due to stock market declines. This could limit state funds available for safety net programs in the next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, health coverage provided through Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Georgians during the coronavirus pandemic via special federal emergency funds will end on April 1. Many of those people could lose their health coverage this year, as they will no longer qualify. 

Despite the expected downturn in revenue, the big surplus would allow Kemp to keep his campaign promise of giving some of that money back to Georgians.

Over the next few months, members of both houses of the General Assembly will deliberate and vote on whether to approve the two tax refunds, among other line items in the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2023 amended budget and fiscal year 2024 budget. 

Have thoughts on the proposed tax refunds, or how the state should spend the surplus?  Contact Jill Jordan Sieder on Twitter @journalistajill or at [email protected].

Twitter @STATEAFFAIRSGA

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Header photo: Conyers resident Corey Cooper plans to buy a chainsaw to help maintain his property with his tax refund. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

Read more on this topic:

https://stateaffairs.com/georgia/profile-georgia-fiscal-economist-jeffrey-dorfman/
https://stateaffairs.com/georgia/what-should-georgia-do-with-its-12-billion-surplus-experts-spend-it-on-education-medicaid-tax-credits-and-refunds/
https://stateaffairs.com/georgia/georgia-governor-kemp-tax-refund-homeowner-two-billion-rebate-budget-surplus-abrams/

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