Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Deal's Gold Dome agenda focuses on taxes, includes cash for Savannah port, reservoirs

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Gov. Nathan Deal this legislative session plans to push a jobs program that includes cutting the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing and making major public investments in reservoirs and a deeper Savannah port.

“In these challenging economic times in which jobs are portable, we must do more to compete,” Deal said in a statement this morning. “It is my goal to make Georgia the no. 1 state in which to do business. The Georgia Competitiveness Initiative Task Force developed a set of tax structure proposals that we believe will give Georgia an edge over other states. We believe this will result in more Georgia companies expanding their footprint here.”

The initiatives, which the governor introduced at this morning's Eggs n' Issues breakfast at the Georgia World Congress Center, include:

· The removal of the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing. “In an age of much higher energy costs, this will impact a large component of manufacturers’ overall cost structure and vastly improve the competitive position of our producers,” Deal said. “Today, in executive offices right here in Georgia, business leaders are making the business decision to expand manufacturing activity and facilities in neighboring states. Every time they make that decision, we miss out on new investment in our communities and new job opportunities for Georgians.”

· Sales and use tax exemptions for construction materials used in projects of regional significance. “The result is simple but powerful: local governments have more options to incentivize investment and job growth. When it comes down to Georgia versus Virginia or Florida, the competition is tight. It often goes down to the wire — even into overtime — and this is one field goal Georgia can’t afford to miss.”

· Modernize Job Tax Credits and Quality Jobs Tax Credit program. “We are proposing to decrease the quality job creation threshold from 50 jobs to 15,” Deal said. “This will reshape the landscape in Georgia for small business owners. This will help start-ups get off the ground in those critical early stages.”

Worth watching: what programs the state will cut to make up for these cuts and credits. And the discussion over whether businesses prefer a state with lower taxes or one with functioning schools, transportation systems, and quality-of-life for their employees.

The governor's also pledged $46 million in the state budget to help pay for reservoirs and an additional $47 million in bonds to fund the deepening of the Port of Savannah. The state has already contributed $136 million to the port expansion. Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed have made trips together to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the project, which supporters say is necessary to accommodate and woo larger ships from docking at other ports along the East Coast. (I've dubbed the proposal the "Engineer Employment Act." Feel free to steal that if you'd like.)

Also worth noting: He's stressing that lawmakers not tinker with the upcoming T-SPLOST referendum, which some senators and reps want to push back to November. Or, as some Cobb County politicos have signaled, overhaul the measure which could generate $6.14 billion for new roads and transit projects in metro Atlanta.

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