Georgia Senate backs testing effectiveness of special tax breaks

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, has pushed legislation in recent years to make sure that tax breaks handed out by the state actually accomplish what they were intended to do, which usually means whether they created jobs. The state Senate approved Albers' latest effort, Senate Bill 6, by a vote of 51-0. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

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State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, has pushed legislation in recent years to make sure that tax breaks handed out by the state actually accomplish what they were intended to do, which usually means whether they created jobs. The state Senate approved Albers' latest effort, Senate Bill 6, by a vote of 51-0. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

The Georgia Senate is taking another run at forcing the state to study whether at least some of the tax breaks lawmakers dole out each year do what they promise: create or retain jobs.

The Senate voted 51-0 Monday for Senate Bill 6 by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who has pushed similar measures in recent years, only to see them vetoed by Gov. Brian Kemp or fail to win final passage before the legislative session ends, including last year when the COVID-19 pandemic upended the General Assembly’s schedule.

Albers said the Kemp administration worked with lawmakers on the bill the past few years.

Albers’ measure would allow the chairmen of the Legislature’s tax committees — the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee — to request independent economic impact reviews of a handful of tax breaks each year.

The sponsor of the bill said it only makes sense that the General Assembly know whether such tax breaks — which have flooded the Legislature in the past — do what their sponsors promise they will do: generally create lots of jobs.

“This is good policy, and it’s the right thing to do,” Albers said.

Currently, such tax breaks — which cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year — often occur after supporters provide testimony or data from industry lobbyists or other parties that would benefit. Those advocates typically tell lawmakers the tax break will create or save jobs, and legislators give the OK.

Businesses hire lobbyists specifically to get such tax breaks passed because they can mean millions of dollars to a company.

Many times tax breaks pass in the final hours of a legislative session, when lawmakers are taking hundreds of votes and have little time to review what they are voting on.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, has already said he wants a broader-based study of Georgia’s tax system, something the state does about once a decade. During last year’s session, he also pushed to eliminate about $200 million in tax breaks to save money.

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