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Only wealthy timberland owners benefitting from Amendment 1

       Under the pretense of protecting the state's forest, Constitutional Amendment No. 1 was ratified in 2008. The ballot question was cleverly worded so that the real purpose of the amendment was disguised. The real purpose was to shift the tax burden from large forest owners to owners of homes, motor vehicles, businesses, family farms and to those who pay state sales and income taxes. The revenue loss to local governments and schools is supposed to be partially off-set by state grants. Under the current economic circumstances, nobody knows when, or if, this will occur. The governor has not provided for these grants in the 2010 or 2011 budgets.
      To me, it is an outrage that at the time homeowners lost their special homestead exemption, large timber owners, many who are non-residents, are enjoying a substantial tax break.
       Many of those voting for Amendment No. 1 had no idea that preferential treatment has been provided family size farms, up to 2000 acres, for about 15 years. Amendment No. 1 primarily benefits those with over 2000 acres, the millionaire landowners and investors.
       Constitutional Amendment No. 1 is with us for the foreseeable future. However, the legislature can change the amount of preferential treatment afforded under this amendment, if it has the will to do so. Currently, timberland in this program is assessed for tax purposes at approximately 20 percent of fair market value. I urge you to help mitigate this injustice by encouraging legislators to amend the law so as to assessed and tax timber tracts over 2000 acres as near as possible to the way other properties are assessed and taxed.
Robert Clay
DeSoto, Ga.

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