Deal signs law that could give firms tax credits for buying alternative vehicles

Businesses that buy alternative fuel vehicles could earn tax credits under a proposal signed into law Friday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

House Bill 348 failed to gain traction last year, but swept through both chambers this year despite opposition from conservatives who viewed it as a giveaway to big business. It was backed by major utilities and corporate giants including UPS, which applauded Friday's bill signing.

The proposal sets a tax credit of up to $20,000 for firms that purchase heavy-duty alternative fuel vehicles, and $12,000 for those purchasing medium-duty alternative fuel vehicles. The credits will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis and are limited to $2.5 million each year. It lapses in June 2017.

Deal assigned a panel of executives and lobbyists to vet tax proposals last year to try to control the election-year flood of incentives that typically springs up. This measure wasn't among the two top priorities listed by the panel, though it was included in a broader package recommended for review.

“The panel’s input is always important, but sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to review everything that moves,” Deal said in an interview. “But this is one of those that we all recognize that serves a two-fold purpose - it caps credits that we’re giving and it incentives energy efficient vehicles.”

It was the first tax break Deal signed this year, and one of a range of proposals pending Deal’s signature. Lawmakers handed out more than $250 million in tax cuts this year, including incentives for luxury jet-maker Gulfstream, breaks for back-to-school shoppers and boosts for video game developers.

The governor is also reviewing a tax exemption for food banks that he vetoed last year because he said it hadn't been vetted by the panel.

State Rep. Don Parsons, the Marietta Republican who sponsored the alternative fuel legislation, said it could have far-reaching impact.

“This will get us to less usage of foreign oil, less usage of gasoline, less usage of diesel fuel,” he said. “And it will jumpstart a move to alternative energy.”

About the Author