Capitol Recap: Sticker price on east Georgia electric-vehicle plant is $1.5 billion

Details emerged this past week on the incentive package Georgia offered to the electric-vehicle maker Rivian to persuade it to locate a $5 billion manufacturing plant about an hour east of Atlanta. The inducements total about $1.5 billion in value. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Details emerged this past week on the incentive package Georgia offered to the electric-vehicle maker Rivian to persuade it to locate a $5 billion manufacturing plant about an hour east of Atlanta. The inducements total about $1.5 billion in value. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Details of state’s Rivian incentive package emerge

What does $1.5 billion look like?

To Rivian, it looks like a package of state and local tax breaks, free land and other inducements that persuaded the electric-vehicle maker to locate a $5 billion manufacturing plant about an hour east of Atlanta.

What does $1.5 billion buy?

If you’re the state of Georgia, that would be 7,500 jobs, with combined wages that could ultimately total about $420 million per year. That averages out to $56,000 in wages per hire.

Details of the incentive package the state used to lure Rivian were released this past week, months after the project was announced at a state Capitol press conference.

Here’s a breakdown of the enticements:

  • $701.7 million in local property tax abatements.
  • $196.9 million for a mega job tax credit.
  • $175 million for a machinery tax exemption.
  • $111 million for land and grading for the project.
  • $105 million for a construction materials tax exemption.
  • $89.4 million for training — $62.5 million for a Quick Start training center and $26.9 million for customized recruitment and training programs.
  • $51.5 million or more for an I-20 interchange and local road improvements.
  • $21 million in the form of a direct grant from the state.
  • $7.4 million for wetland and stream mitigation

The state still may need to sell the idea to some Georgians.

The deal has become an issue in the GOP race for governor. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who aims to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp, has painted the incentive package as blatant election-year politics forged in the “dark of night.” He said that if he were governor, he would have nixed the project.

The project has also faced pushback from some residents who live near the site that straddles Morgan and Walton counties. They say Kemp and other state officials neglected to get them on board.

The state has an auto warranty of sorts.

Rivian must fulfill 80% of its job and investment promises by the end of 2028 and hold them through 2047, or the state could pull back some of those provisions.

Schools and local governments will recover some of the abated local property tax revenue under a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement. State Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said Rivian will make more than $300 million in PILOT payments over 25 years before the property will be taxed at full value.

Still, some say the price tag is too high.

Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, a Washington-based group that generally opposes public subsidies, said that with the state’s incentives breaking down to roughly $197,000 per job, “Georgia taxpayers will never break even on this deal.”

Rivian has said it plans to begin production in 2024 at the Georgia plant, where it expects to eventually manufacture up to 400,000 vehicles a year.

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Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, trying to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp in this month's GOP primary, said that if he were governor at a time when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, he would call for a special legislative session to toughen the state's abortion restrictions. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, trying to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp in this month's GOP primary, said that if he were governor at a time when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, he would call for a special legislative session to toughen the state's abortion restrictions. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

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Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, trying to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp in this month's GOP primary, said that if he were governor at a time when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, he would call for a special legislative session to toughen the state's abortion restrictions. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Special session unlikely if Roe is overturned

Some prominent Georgia Republicans, including gubernatorial hopeful David Perdue, responded to news this past week indicating the U.S. Supreme Court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade by calling for a special legislative session to strengthen the state’s restrictions on abortion.

But a quick look back at the General Assembly’s session in 2019, when Republicans pushed through the “heartbeat law,” shows that probably won’t happen.

That measure, which would bar most abortions once a doctor has detected cardiac activity in a fetus — about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women are aware they are pregnant — won passage by a single vote after about a dozen GOP legislators abstained from voting or joined Democrats to oppose it. (The law has yet to take effect after a federal judge put it on hold to see how the Supreme Court would handle a Mississippi case, the one addressed in the leaked draft of an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito spelling out the end of Roe.)

Practicality was trumped by aspiration this past week, when numerous Republican candidates, aiming to drive up their support among the GOP base as the primary nears, pressed for lawmakers to return to the state Capitol later this year to toughen restrictions beyond the “heartbeat law.”

That was even true for candidates who, if they won their races, would have no effect on abortion policy. Count among them Republican state Sen. Bruce Thompson, now running for labor commissioner.

“As a strong pro-lifer, I believe all life was created by God and deserves to be protected,” said Thompson, who earlier this year unsuccessfully sought to block the mailing of abortion pills to Georgians.

The same thing played out in reverse on the Democratic side, with state Rep. Bee Nguyen, now bidding to become secretary of state. She said she would make the overturning of Roe a primary factor in her campaign, saying it showed Republicans “don’t care about women.” The secretary of state has no role in abortion policy.

Abrams’ campaign for governor paused its fundraising to direct donations to the following abortion rights groups: the Feminist Women’s Health Center, SisterSong, ARC Southeast, Planned Parenthood Southeast and NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia.

“We know that no one individual, campaign or organization can guarantee reproductive choice on their own,” Abrams’ campaign wrote in a campaign fundraising email. “We can only win this fight by uniting and doing the work together.”

Abrams has been a fundraising powerhouse since her 2018 run for governor ended in a narrow defeat. The Fair Fight Action political organization she founded after that loss has raised more than $100 million since 2019. Renewing her pursuit for the Governor’s Mansion late last year, she raised $11.7 million from February to April.

  • Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is once again seeking an end to the filibuster, this time so the Senate would be able to approve legislation to protect abortion rights.

“I think that no Senate rule and no Senate procedure is more important than people’s constitutional rights,” he said. “And it is our duty as one of the three co-equal branches of government to find a way to stand with the American people, 70% of which believes that it is a woman’s right to choose.”

Warnock had pressed for an end to the filibuster when Democrats were aiming to pass federal election law. That effort failed when two moderate members of the party — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — would not support a change of filibuster rules that typically doom pieces of legislation that fail to get 60 votes, meaning right now that neither party can pass anything without persuading 10 members of the opposing party to cross the aisle.

Georgia’s other U.S. senator, Jon Ossoff, had also advocated for bypassing the filibuster to pass the election bill. But he was not as quick to join a similar effort on abortion.

“Sen. Ossoff will carefully review any proposed rule changes carefully,” his spokesman said.

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Early voting for the May 24 Georgia primary began Monday, and a record number of voters came out for the first day. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Early voting for the May 24 Georgia primary began Monday, and a record number of voters came out for the first day. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Early voting for the May 24 Georgia primary began Monday, and a record number of voters came out for the first day. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Early voting begins with a rush to the polls

Early voting for the Georgia primary got off to a record start.

Turnout on Monday, the first day of three weeks of early voting, was nearly twice as high as the start of the 2020 primary.

Republicans, who have high-profile contests in the races for governor and U.S. senator, cast 14,731 votes on that first day. That nearly matched total turnout of 14,950 votes cast in person on the first day of early voting in the 2020 primary.

Democrats, who have essentially secured the top of their ticket, still cast 12,308 votes on Monday. An additional 259 voters asked for nonpartisan ballots.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, the state’s top election official, said the “record turnout on the first day of early voting is a testament to an elections system that ensures top-level security and ease of access.”

Early voting is available across Georgia every weekday and on two Saturdays until May 20. Some counties are offering Sunday voting opportunities as well. Election day is May 24.

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Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (center) said allegations against a consultant to his campaign to return to the U.S. House raped a woman in 2013 are "very disturbing." But he said he would continue to work with the consulting firm, adding that his campaign has really worked more closely with another of its employees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (center) said allegations against a consultant to his campaign to return to the U.S. House raped a woman in 2013 are "very disturbing." But he said he would continue to work with the consulting firm, adding that his campaign has really worked more closely with another of its employees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

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Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun (center) said allegations against a consultant to his campaign to return to the U.S. House raped a woman in 2013 are "very disturbing." But he said he would continue to work with the consulting firm, adding that his campaign has really worked more closely with another of its employees. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Credit: Hyosub Shin

Broun sticks with firm that employs consultant charged with rape

Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, now seeking a return to the U.S. House, said he will not stop working with a firm after one of its consultants was charged with rape. He did say, though, that the allegations are “very disturbing.”

Cliff Maloney Jr. is accused of drugging and then raping a woman while she was unconscious in a college dormitory in 2013, according to the The Tribune-Democrat newspaper of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

The woman came forward last year shortly after the Daily Dot published an article recounting accusations that Maloney sexually harassed women connected to Young Americans for Liberty, a conservative political organization. He was fired as that group’s president after those allegations, collected from posts on social media, were made public.

Maloney now faces two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated indecent assault tied to the 2013 incident, the Tribune-Democrat reported. He is currently out on bond.

Broun said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is bothered by the charges against Maloney but is still working with the consultant’s firm.

“These allegations are very disturbing,” the statement reads. “That said, I believe in the judicial process, and I trust that truth and justice will prevail, and I will be praying for everyone involved.

“We have primarily worked with another member of the company and will continue to evaluate the situation as it unfolds.”

Broun, who left the House to make an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 2014, is now one of eight competitors in the 10th Congressional District’s GOP primary.

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Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff joined Republicans this past week in passing legislation that would direct the White House to end its mask mandate for children ages 2 to 5 participating in the Head Start program. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff joined Republicans this past week in passing legislation that would direct the White House to end its mask mandate for children ages 2 to 5 participating in the Head Start program. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Georgia Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff joined Republicans this past week in passing legislation that would direct the White House to end its mask mandate for children ages 2 to 5 participating in the Head Start program. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Ossoff joins Republicans in opposing Head Start mask mandate for kids

Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff was one of seven Democrats who joined Republicans in passing a bill that directs the White House to repeal a rule mandating masks for children ages 2 to 5 while attending federal Head Start programs.

The bill, which passed on a 55-41 vote, now moves to the House, where enough Democrats could be willing to vote with Republicans to pass the measure, ending the use of the masks in the programs to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Georgia’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Raphael Warnock, voted against the measure.

The White House says President Joe Biden would veto it, C-SPAN reports.

Ossoff’s office said in a statement that “at this stage of the pandemic,” the senator “believes decisions about masks for young children in schools should be made at the local level.”

Politically expedient

  • Kaye heads back to the House: Republican Mitchell Kaye will return to the Georgia House, where he served from 1993 through 2003, after winning a special election runoff this past week in House District 45. It will be a short stay, however, because Kaye did not qualify to run for the east Cobb County seat in this month’s primary. He will complete the final seven months of former state Rep. Matt Dollar’s term before the General Assembly is set to return in January. Dollar left the House to become deputy commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia.
  • Bush to stump for Kemp: Politico reported that former President George W. Bush will be the “special guest” at a Texas fundraiser this month for Gov. Brian Kemp, marking another chapter in “longstanding tensions,” the outlet reported, between the Bush family and former President Donald Trump. Trump is backing former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s bid to oust Kemp in Georgia’s GOP primary.
  • Cruz to headline conservative conference in Atlanta: Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and other conservative leaders will speak at the Together for Truth summit May 21 in Atlanta. The one-day conference, organized by the Truth and Courage PAC, will also include workshops to train supporters on how to build grassroots political operations in their communities. Also speaking at the conference will be U.S. Reps. Burgess Owens of Utah and Chip Roy of Texas.
  • Warnock cited for work across the aisle: The Lugar Center ranked Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock as the 18th most bipartisan senator for his work in 2021.
  • Haley gives boost to Hunt campaign: Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is backing Jeremy Hunt in the 2nd Congressional District’s GOP primary. Her Stand for America PAC will also hold online fundraisers on Hunt’s behalf. Hunt also holds endorsements from former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
  • Evans draws key support: Jake Evans, who is running in the 6th Congressional District GOP primary, picked up an endorsement from the Conservative Political Action Coalition, one of the largest conservative political action committees in the country.
  • Four female Democrats gain endorsements: Emily’s List, which supports Democratic women seeking office who support abortion rights, is backing the following candidates for the General Assembly: Luisa Wakeman in Senate District 6; Lisa Campbell in House District 35; state Rep. Park Cannon in House District 58; and Ruwa Romman in House District 97.

Elsewhere online

Other stories about Georgia government and politics can be found at www.ajc.com/politics/.