If Georgia lawmakers get their way, corporations doing business in that state will get a nice tax cut and the Girl Scouts will be chipping in to make up the difference in the state budget.
Yup. As crazy as that sounds, that's what's going on in Georgia as Republican lawmakers are proposing a tax code overhaul. In an attempt to bring more jobs to Georgia, GOP representatives have proposed a cut in corporate tax rates for domestic and foreign corporations, while at the same time calling for tax hike on groceries, gasoline, and, yes, those tasty Thin Mints.
Georgia is wrestling with a budget shortfall as many states are. A recent task force that studied how to better manage the state's revenue shortfall recommended cutting corporate taxes. To make up for that loss in revenue, proposed Georgia House Bill 385 also calls for implementing a tax on non-profit fund-raising efforts, which would mean taxing the popcorn sold by the state's Boy Scouts, as well as those Tagalongs and Samoas that the Girl Scouts sell every year to raise money for their leadership and community involvement programs.
The Girl Scout's slogan for the organization's annual cookie drive is "Every Cookie Has a Mission." If the new tax law is passed, that mission will, in effect, include giving tax breaks to Georgia corporations.
While there is always a public policy debate to be made about who to tax and how to create more job opportunities, shifting even a portion of the state's tax burden to non-profits like the Girl Scouts reflects a certain tone-deafness in the name of fiscal responsibility. How could Georgia Republicans not have foreseen that taking money from the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, while giving a tax break to corporations, wouldn't make them look like the Grinch sneaking into Cindy Lou Who's house at Christmas and stealing the roast beast?
But there's a larger issue here than just how one state is deciding to rethink how to fund its budget. This move in Georgia is just the latest episode in what feels like increasing efforts to change our culture through legislation. In addition to Georgia's corporations vs. cookies attitude, Wisconsin is pitting teachers against taxpayers with the ongoing collective bargaining saga. In New Hampshire, some lawmakers want to stifle college voting because those crazy kids vote with their hearts not their heads. And, as the season of Lent begins, Congress is investigating religion in a way that makes me think about those so-called Salem witches.
While these episodes are unrelated, when viewed together one can see a pattern forming of efforts that, as they saw in the law, may seem "neutral on their face," but when viewed all together create a larger picture of a growing and unsettling attitude of how those with the greater power are treating those who have less.
As for those Girl Scouts in Georgia, there is one leadership lesson they're learning. The head of the Greater Atlanta Girl Scouts, Marilyn Midyette, has reportedly sent an E-mail encouraging parents and Girl Scout supporters to contact their lawmakers about the proposed shift in the state's tax burden from corporations to tween girls, asking them to do it in a courteous and "Scout-like" way, of course.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the forthcoming book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. Joanne also writes the political blog PunditMom.