Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives are proposing the third state tax cut in the last five years.

Legislation introduced in the House Tuesday calls for lowering Georgia’s income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.25%, returning $1 billion to state taxpayers.

“We believe as a core principle that government must live within its means, that there is no such thing as government money,” House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, told reporters during a news conference unveiling the bill. “It belongs to Georgia taxpayers.”

The Republican-controlled General Assembly rolled back the state income tax rate from 6% to 5.75% in 2018, then followed that up last year by raising the standard deduction for single taxpayers and couples filing jointly.

In proposing a third tax cut, Ralston cited the highest inflation rate in the last 40 years – 7% statewide last year and 9.8% in Atlanta – leaving Georgians in need of tax relief.

“Everything is costing more, food, gas, the things Georgians buy every day,” he said.

Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the tax cut would mean Georgia families with incomes of $30,000 a year would pay no state income taxes, while those with incomes of $50,000 annually would owe only $400. The cuts would take effect with the 2024 tax year.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said strong growth in tax revenues despite the impact of the pandemic means the state can afford an additional tax cut.

“The growth we’ve seen in revenues … is outpacing what the needs are,” he said.

But Ralston cautioned against completing eliminating the state income tax, an idea being pushed by state Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville.

“That would blow a catastrophic hole in the budget,” the speaker said. “The responsible way to do it is taken the incremental approach we’ve adopted in the House.”

Minority Democrats likely will push back against even an incremental tax cut. Democratic lawmakers have long argued the state is underfunding such critical needs as education and health care.

House Republicans rolled out the proposed income tax cut on the same day the chamber passed a one-time $1.6 billion reduction in taxes proposed by Gov. Brian Kemp. The bill passed 148-18 and now heads to the state Senate.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams | Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is the Bureau Chief of Capitol Beat News Service.