ATLANTA --- Lobbyists from business, farm and tourism groups told a tax-reform panel Wednesday that they want to keep their current tax breaks and get new ones.
They didn't offer many simple answers for the panel charged by the Legislature to recommend revisions that would encourage job creation while ensuring a steady stream of revenue for state government.
Twice panel members asked how to replace the revenue from new tax breaks such as elimination of the inventory tax. John Krueger, senior vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, replied that he hadn't polled his members about that.
"To be honest, I really don't have an answer to that," he said.
Besides ending the inventory tax, the lobbyists called for halting the sales tax on electricity, natural gas and coal used in manufacturing and food processing. Because energy is the second-largest cost for factories, ending it could attract more employers, they said.
"It's the low-hanging, gigantic fruit," said Bryan Tolar, the vice president for public affairs with the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, one of the panel's members, cautioned his colleagues that the lobbyists had a hand in the tax code that the panel is tasked with reforming.
"These guys are good at there jobs," he said, winning passage of the hodgepodge of current tax credits and exemptions.
Be careful, the governor warned, because it's easy to argue any tax is standing in the way of snagging factories from other states and create a bidding war between the states.
"These are advocates who are advocating for businesses, and if we (eliminate) the inventory tax, then there'll be other things, too, we need to look at," he said.