Kemp signs $75 million in tax breaks for people who donate to police

Driver dead after leading police on a high speed chase down I-75

Driver dead after leading police on a high speed chase down I-75

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday signed a measure into law creating a state tax credit allowing Georgians and corporations to target taxes they would normally pay into the state treasury to support local law enforcement.

Senate Bill 361 was pushed by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who, while serving in the state House, authored a similar tax credit that has pumped money into struggling rural hospitals.

SB 361 makes $75 million a year available in state income tax credits to Georgians who donate to local law enforcement foundations.

Duncan has said the tax credit proposal is a response to rising crime and the need to better fund police departments and sheriffs’ offices.

The tax credits would be capped at $5,000 per individual ($10,000 per married couple) and 75% of a corporation’s tax liability.

Police and sheriffs’ offices would be required to allocate the money to do things such as provide bonus pay and make other improvements to their departments. They could not use the money for hiring more police.

“This gives much needed resources to local law enforcement,” said state Sen. Larry Walker, R-Kathleen, before Kemp signed the bill.

No police foundation would be allowed to receive more than $3 million a year, a limit designed to spread the tax credit cash to as many departments as possible.

Kemp also signed Senate Bill 403, which aims to increase the number of teams trained in mental healthcare that can respond to emergency calls typically handled only by police officers.

The law tasks community service boards — panels that work with the state to provide mental health, disability and addiction services — with creating guidelines for a “co-responder program” where behavioral health professionals join law enforcement officers when responding to emergency calls involving a mental health crisis.

Community service boards would be required to have someone who can be available on-call to respond with police when needed. Law enforcement agencies that choose to participate in the program would also designate officers who would respond to mental health crises. Law enforcement agencies would not be required to participate in the program.

There are currently six similar programs operating across the state, including in Chatham, Cobb and Athens-Clarke counties.

Kemp also signed House Bill 424, which would allocate up to $20 million a year to provide Georgians with tax credits for donations to organizations that assist those in foster care and who’ve turned 18 and have legally become an adult.