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ELECTION 2014: Brooks wants to implement consumption tax

COVINGTON — Covington resident Aaron Brooks has a list full of ideas he’d like to bring to the state house of representatives, starting with instituting a consumption tax that would replace the state’s income tax.

“I would say (a consumption tax) is the No.1 thing I’d like to do as a legislator,” said Brooks, a 20-year resident of Newton County. “I say ‘Fair Tax’ because that’s what everybody understands, and a consumption tax is the most equitable way of taxation. It doesn’t discourage people from making income.

“One of the things I’ve seen in states that have gone away from an income tax to a consumption tax is that savings rates increase, which causes investment in communities. You have more money for roads and schools. Between 2001-2011, the nine states with a consumption tax at the state level saw an increase in revenue of 75 percent. And that’s in this bad economic downturn. It’s not the only part of the equation, but it’s a big part of the picture when you’re talking about state revenues.”

Brooks, 40, announced late last year that he would seek election to House District 112, which became an open seat when Doug Holt said he would not seek re-election in 2014. Brooks will be opposed in the May 20 Republican primary by Dave Belton and Ester Fleming.

In addition to tax reform, Brooks – a regional sales manager for a commercial laundry supplies firm, a Navy veteran and a charter member of the Newton Conservative Liberty Alliance – plans to hone in on continuing to build a business-friendly Georgia, allowing school choice and strengthening ethics laws for state lawmakers.

On the campaign trail – where he says he’s already knocked on some 2,000 doors – Brooks said his message of a “Fair Tax” is meeting with approval from his potential constituency.

“People are very receptive and I truly believe it’s the will of the people,” he said. “I have yet to have anybody say, ‘No I don’t want a fair tax; we need to do it differently.’ Most everybody has said ‘That’s what I want as a way of being taxed.’ They see the advantages it opens up for them to save money. They get to choose whether or not they pay the tax. There are a lot of particulars involved, but there are many good reasons for Georgia to do this.”

Well aware that an attempt to effect a national sales tax on the federal level – which was introduced in the U.S. House by former Rep. John Linder in the mid-1990s – has failed to find legislative traction, and even more cognizant of the fact that he’d be a novice legislator, Brooks says he’ll do what he can to get his fair tax idea off and running.

“I’m an eternally pragmatic-type person,” he said. “I realize there’s going to be a lot of work on my part. However, I believe we are close to a tipping point in the state of Georgia and the Legislature seems to agree a consumption tax would be better than an income tax. … It’s a pretty broad tax reform, but I don’t think it will be a hard selling job because I think most of the people in the Legislature look at this as something they’d like to do.”

Brooks said he’s grateful for the ethics legislation the Georgia General Assembly approved in its most recent session, but he’s of the opinion that Georgia still has a long way to go to avoid being considered “the laughingstock” of the nation.

“Georgia is at the bottom of the list in ethics reform, and we should be ashamed of that,” he said. “There should be a cry about this, which is something that needs to be addressed. We can’t be the laughingstock of the whole country because at the end of the day we’re a conservative state and hopefully we’ll remain that way, but we need to put policy where our mouth is. Our rhetoric and what we do are not the same thing.”

Although his platform is based on a decidedly conservative viewpoint, Brooks said he’s not planning to go to Atlanta to rubber-stamp any and every Republican-based proposal and says both parties need to be more collaborative in the lawmaking process.

“If something needs to be said, I’m probably going to say it,” Brooks said. “I’m not going to go along to get along. I’m not one that says, ‘I’m a Republican, this is a Republican idea, so it’s a great idea.’ I tend to be an individual thinker. We’ve got to think long-term on issues – there are no quick answers or silver bullets out there. So we’ve got to build bridges to come to a consensus. A lot of times, compromise and consensus are put in the same vein, but I’d much rather come to a consensus than compromise my principles.”