Originally created 01/24/06

Senate OKs tax trim on natural gas



ATLANTA - Georgians using natural gas and liquid propane to keep warm this winter should see their costs drop slightly now that both houses of the General Assembly have approved a temporary cut in sales tax.

The Senate on Monday voted overwhelmingly, 51-3, to approve Gov. Sonny Perdue's executive order cutting the collections in half for the next few months to help consumers who are seeing significantly higher heating bills.

The House easily passed the measure two weeks ago, and Mr. Perdue's aides said the governor will sign it into law soon.

House Bill 970 will suspend half of the state's 4 percent sales tax on natural gas bills from the beginning of this month until the end of April. It will also reduce the sales tax imposed on sales of liquid propane through March 31.

For natural gas bills, the sales tax suspension will only apply to the amount of fuel used and not the roughly $33 to $45 a month imposed for base charges and service fees.

Mr. Perdue said that average home heating bills are running at least twice as much as last year.

"State government should not reap a financial windfall because of these unfortunate market conditions," Mr. Perdue said.

While several Senate Democrats supported the partial tax suspension, several criticized the legislation, saying that it would provide little relief to consumers facing higher energy bills this year.

"This is a joke, and I'm not going to be a part of it," said Sen. Regina Thomas, D-Savannah.

Morris News Service writer Audrey Goodson contributed to this article.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 681-1701 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.

A 2 percent reduction in sales tax on natural gas and propane would result in a $4 savings on $200 gas bill, excluding other service fees.