Georgia Taxpayers Willing to Pay More to Help Citizens with Disabilities

Originally Published Feb 24, 2009, 10:37am (Updated Feb 24, 2009, 10:37am)

In a season of financial deficit, a recent poll indicates a majority of Georgia taxpayers may be willing to pay more in state and local taxes, if it will improve the lives of Georgia citizens with disabilities.

“While the Georgia legislature struggles with efforts to balance a budget with an almost $2 billion shortfall, it appears citizens are willing to dig a little deeper if it will help people with disabilities,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Governor’s Council On Developmental Disabilities (GCDD). “We expect over 1,500 advocates to attend Wednesday’s rally where they will have the opportunity to voice their support directly to legislators.”

The poll reveals 58% of Georgia taxpayers are willing to accept such a tax increase and respondents register even stronger support for the Georgia Legislature to require that home builders construct new accessible homes (excluding custom-built and those with basements) for people with disabilities.

“People are starting to realize it does not make sense to look desperately for money to remove barriers from existing houses while building barriers into new houses,” adds Eleanor Smith, president of Concrete Change.

The Schapiro Group interviewed 450 registered Georgia voters January 26-29, 2009 for this most recent Georgia Legislative Poll. The tax most frequently cited from which to garner the additional funding was sales taxes, as opposed to income or property taxes.

“The results of the Schapiro Group poll suggest there is a need for more funding for community supports and greater access for people who are often isolated,” said Patricia Puckett, executive director of SILC (State Independent Living Centers). “Moreover, Georgia citizens want their elected officials to take action to address these issues even if it means paying an additional tax.”

These findings reinforce the efforts of the Unlock The Waiting Lists! campaign. According to Campaign Director, Dave Blanchard, nearly 7,000 individuals with developmental and other disabilities are on waiting lists for vital community based services. "There is no debate about whether supports for people with disabilities should be funded. The challenge for the legislator has been one of the priorities in finding the money,” he said. “The results of the Shapiro Group poll offer another way for the Georgia legislator to continue to reduce Georgia's waiting lists for supports."

In 2008, the Georgia General Assembly approved a resolution to conduct a study on how to increase the number of accessible homes built in Georgia. Members of the General Assembly and advocates for people with disabilities have discussed legislation to require all new homes built on concrete slabs that are not custom built be constructed with a few accessibility features; including a no-step entrance and wider doorways. The Schapiro Group poll indicates that 64% of those polled would either “strongly support” or “somewhat support” this kind of legislation.

The Disability Day at the Capitol rally begins at 11am Wednesday, immediately following a press conference on the Capitol steps. Advocates for improved services and greater community access travel from across Georgia to convince legislators that more has to be done to support people with disabilities and their families.

Atlanta V-103 FM radio personality, children’s advocate and philanthropist, Frank Ski will emcee the proceedings, and Brad Cohen a Cobb County area lead teacher, author and motivational speaker will offer the keynote address at the rally. Cohen’s book, “Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had,” was the subject of a CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame movie in 2008.

Lois Curtis, a Georgia native and the surviving plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead Decision will be present for the 10th anniversary observance and commemorative chant. Curtis’ 1999 victory in the judicial system has paved the way for Americans with disabilities to leave institutions and join community life.

GCDD is a Federally-funded state agency that promotes independence, inclusion, integration, self-determination and productivity for Georgians with developmental disabilities so they can live, learn, work, play and worship where and how they choose. A Developmental Disability is a chronic mental and/or physical disability that occurs before age 22 and is expected to last a lifetime. It may require supports in three or more of the following life activities: self-care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Visit www.gcdd.org for more information.


1 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Feb 27, 2009 11:46am [ 1 ]

That is wonderful that the people in Georgia are actually willing to help people with disabilities through tax increase. Hopefully this tax hits people that are in rentals as well and not like many states that excludes renters in various taxes such as school taxes because they are renting and are not home owners.

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