March 30, 2017 Atlanta - Sen. Larry Walker (center) confers with other senators on the senate floor on Thursday, March 30, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Rural Georgians receive tax credits under newly signed law

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a hotly-debated $60 million tax credit into law Tuesday that was criticized by opponents from both sides of the aisle as a giveaway to corporate interests but praised by supporters as a boon to struggling rural communities.

Sponsored by state Sen. Larry Walker Jr., a Republican from Perry, SB 133 was advertised as a booster to more sparsely-populated parts of the state in need of investment and revitalization. It provides $60 million in tax credits to companies that invest in businesses in rural parts of the state.

In urging support for the bill, Walker reminded his urban and suburban colleagues of previous votes he cast to support projects in Atlanta that his constituents often don’t see.

Several state lawmakers who are considered candidates for statewide runs in 2018 supported the measure as an effort to boost parts of the state that have seen rising unemployment rates and slowed growth.

However, the bill narrowly escaped the chopping block.

Lobbyists for national capital companies that could benefit from the incentives pushed the bill through in the final hours of the 2017 legislative session despite criticism from Senate Democrats and Republicans who pointed to the spotty records of similar programs that made big money for the investment companies even if no jobs are created.

Deal raised concerns about CAPCO, a similar program in 2015, that he feared would create fewer jobs and less state revenue than projected. His office declined to comment on the legislation during the session.

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