Deal rallies support for referendum, business tax cut

Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Tuesday called on Georgians to support this year's regional transportation referendums, while Speaker David Ralston said he'd leave that decision up to voters.

The three state leaders spoke this morning at the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's annual Eggs & Issues breakfast. Deal, speaking first, called on the 3,000 business leaders in the ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center to encourage others to back the July vote as well.

Later, Cagle and Ralston appeared together on a panel and Cagle, too, called the transportation tax vote a key moment in the state's history.

"I have been very supportive of the [transportation tax referendum] and remain very optimistic as we move forward," Cagle said.

But Ralston, who led the fight for legislation that created the referendums, was less effusive in his support. While he said "there is no Plan B"  if the referendums are rejected, Ralston said he trusts voters "to do the right thing." He did not, however, call on voters to support the referendums.

On tax reform, Deal reiterated the plans he first laid out to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday. He wants the state to exempt energy used in manufacturing from sales taxes, exempt construction materials used in large, regional facilities from sales taxes and to revise the state's job creation tax credits.

Ralston, however, said he still believes "comprehensive tax reform is the way to go," adding that "I don't make any secret that I generally favor a consumption tax."

That dynamic -- whether to focus reform on business taxes or a swap of individual income tax cuts via an increased state sales tax -- will be an important one as lawmakers consider Deal's proposals versus their own desires for changes to the tax code.

Ralston did say he agrees with Deal in eliminating the energy sales tax for manufacturing.

"There are other pieces that are important," Ralston said. "It all has to fit together at the end of the day."

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