Let’s furlough legislators and bureaucrats and make them collect back taxes

Published 3:17 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I have a way to cut the state’s $2 billion deficit significantly while keeping members of the General Assembly, the state’s constitutional officers and assorted bureaucrats busy doing something meaningful for a change. Impossible, you say? Hear me out.

I must confess I was inspired by the Legislature’s latest Teacher Appreciation gesture. Just when I thought teacher morale in Georgia couldn’t get any higher, Rep. Ed Lindsey, R-Atlanta, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has suggested that the state’s 125,000 schoolteachers be furloughed for six days to save money. Given the humongous amounts of money that schoolteachers are paid and the few hours they work, this action would seem on the face of it to be a great idea. Besides, what do teachers do anyway besides trying to ram education into recalcitrant kids while politicians, bureaucrats, boards of education, superintendents, principals and the news media second-guess every move they make? Oh, did I mention the piddling issues like drugs, poverty and public apathy that teachers deal with on a daily basis?

I have a better idea. As Rep. Lindsey was trotting out his idea, State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham released 1,000 pages of businesses in Georgia that owe our state a reported $453 million. (You can find the list on DOR’s website.) My abacus is in the shop being recalibrated, but I’ll bet the money owed us by these companies is as much or more than would be saved by stiffing our schoolteachers. (And I’m not even counting Rep. Lindsey’s 22 colleagues in the General Assembly who haven’t paid their taxes.)

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So, here is my proposal: Commissioner Graham should take the 1,000 pages of tax-delinquent businesses and divide the list among the 236 members of the General Assembly. These august public servants would then take a furlough and collect the money from those scoundrels who haven’t paid their taxes. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I believe making the legislators take a furlough would sit a lot better with most Georgians than furloughing teachers.

But I’m not through. Save some of those 1,000 pages for the governor and the members of his staff. Same for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson. And don’t forget the attorney general, insurance commissioner, labor commissioner, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices, the game and fish guy, the head of the state patrol and even university presidents, who have to spend most of their time raising money anyway. I may have accidently omitted a functionary or two, but you get the idea.

It wouldn’t be hard to come up with about 500 temporary tax collectors in state government. We would give them two sheets each, and after an inspirational sendoff by a highly paid public school teacher, everybody would fan out and start collecting the $453 million in back taxes.

Think how effective it would be to see Gov. Sonny Perdue standing at your office door: “Hi, I’m Sonny Perdue, and I am here to collect the $15,463.24 you owe the state. I must leave here with a certified check, or else I will call out the National Guard and we will blow this building to smithereens. We also accept American Express.”

At the risk of over-selling this idea, not only could we get the money rightfully owed us, we would have the politicians and bureaucrats out of our hair for a few weeks and during that time not have to worry about getting more government than we want or deserve.

I have not discussed my plan with Revenue Commissioner Graham yet. He has been tied up trying to get 22 deadbeat legislators to pay their back taxes. But he’d have to like my proposal. What is wrong, pray tell, with requiring those people who are so anxious to spend our tax dollars to go out and collect from those who haven’t paid, as well as cutting our deficit by almost a half-billion dollars?

Here is the best part. With Rep. Lindsey and his friends busy collecting taxes, schoolteachers can get back to teaching and not have to worry whether they can pay their bills next month because of the latest cockamamie scheme in the Legislature.

Sometimes I am so brilliant, I scare myself.