Tax reform effort not dead, Deal says

Jackie Ricciardi/staff
Governor Nathan Deal greets Terra Carroll of the Augusta Metro Chamber as Daphne Jones looks on during a bill signing ceremony at the Enterprise Mill in Augusta on Thursday, May 5, 2011.The legislature will create more trauma units for burn victims in Georgia and will allow golf carts on the streets.
Thursday, May 5, 2011 4:23 PM
Last updated 4:51 PM
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said this morning that state lawmakers might again take up tax reform when the Legislature reconvenes Aug. 15.

Deal made the statement following a bill-signing ceremony at Savannah Rapids Pavilion during the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's Post-Legislative Breakfast.

Though heavily discussed during the recent legislative session, Deal said he and lawmakers "couldn't finalize" a plan to initiate sweeping tax reforms in the state.

Recommendations made in January by a blue-ribbon panel tasked with investigating tax reforms left "too many unanswered questions about the consequences of requested reforms," Deal said.

However, Deal said the issue "will come back up," possibly in August when he'll call a special session for redistricting.

Deal said he'd like to see tax reforms that focus on a "consumption-based approach," rather than generating about half of the state's revenues through personal income taxes.

But state officials need to "be cautious" until they are certain that any alternative revenue sources are as dependable as income taxes and won't unfairly raise taxes, he said.

Cutting taxes on energy consumption for manufactures is a reform Deal said he'd like to see, since he said it will spur economic growth.

State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said during the breakfast meeting that he also supports the exemption for manufacturers because it will grow jobs.

Debates in the Legislature this year on tax reforms led to "the most lively discussions we've ever had," Harbin said.

Like Deal, Harbin said it will take time to institute real change.

"We can't look at it in little slivers," he said. "We have to look at it as a package."

Also at the breakfast, Deal signed into law House Bill 280, which was authored by Harbin.

The bill allows local governments collecting 911 fees in excess of what's needed to staff and operate 911 call centers to also use the money to insure, maintain and improve the system.

In Columbia County, that likely will mean the purchase of a new radio system for the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Clay Whittle said the new funding source will allow his office to improve radio signals between dispatchers and deputies, and allow police, fire and EMS officials to communicate more easily on a single frequency.


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