Property tax relief, additional revenue, or tax mimicking?
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Since the 1970s, local governments in Georgia have been authorized, upon voter approval, to levy a one-percent general-purpose Local Option Sales Tax (LOST), which is earmarked for property tax relief. Using socioeconomic and fiscal data during the period 1975-2002, this dissertation examines the adoption and budgetary effects of the LOST in Georgia counties. The adoption of the LOST is studies with a discrete-time event history analysis. The results suggest that the probability that an eligible county will adopt the LOST is determined by a set of motivations, obstacles, and resources. The motivations are related to the perceived property tax level, the existence of fiscal pressure, and the potential of sales tax exportation. The obstacles are related to existing sales tax rates and the level of tax competition. The resources for overcoming these obstacles are related to the tax mimicking behavior in the process of policy diffusion. Budgetary effects of the LOST are examined with pooled time-series regressions. The results suggest that (1) the rollback of property tax millage rates by the LOST is gradually offset by a faster growth of the rates in the post-LOST period; (2) the LOST proceeds are fungible, as they lead to higher levels of revenue and expenditure in the counties; and (3) the levels of fungibility vary across counties in accordance with their fiscal and socioeconomic conditions.
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