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In Georgia, Tax Hike Is First in 18 Years

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Georgia teachers will receive a 3 percent pay raise and funding for the state's Quality Basic Education Act will be increased as a result of the legislature's adoption of the first major tax increase in 18 years.

Lawmakers adjourned March 15 after agreeing on how to spend the $687 million in revenues expected from a 1-cent hike in the state sales tax, which had been approved a week earlier.

The tax increase was the subject of weeks of debate after both houses of the General Assembly approved the higher tax, but differed on whether food should be exempted.

Legislators finally agreed to accept a compromise plan offered by Gov. Joe Frank Harris to exclude most fresh foods, but not packaged or processed commodities, from the sales tax.

Legislature Applauded

Educators applauded the legislature's willingness to raise taxes and commit 46 percent of the new revenue to education.

"Georgia's political leadership has reaffirmed its commitment to quality education and to the Quality Basic Education Act," State Superintendent Werner Rogers said in a statement.

The fiscal 1990 budget approved by lawmakers includes $68.1 million for teacher salary increases and for improvements in the salary schedule.

The budget also includes $20 million for special instructional assistance for students in kindergarten through the 2nd grade, and $9 million for an in-school suspension program for high-school students, both of which were called for in the 1985 qbe law.

In addition, the budget includes a $97-million increase in the qbe funding formula.

Despite the approval of the sales-tax hike, some educators argue that programs mandated by the reform law continue to be underfunded.

By one estimate, an additional $500 million is needed to fully fund the qbe law, with about half of that amount required for the implementation of a teacher career ladder.

"I'm beginning to see folks drag their feet in funding qbe," said Kay Pippin, a lobbyist for the Georgia Association of Educators.--mw

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