Kemp signs bill to review special-interest tax breaks, and to add new ones

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Tuesday to allow for the review of special-interest tax breaks to ensure they do what they were meant to do, generally to create jobs. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Tuesday to allow for the review of special-interest tax breaks to ensure they do what they were meant to do, generally to create jobs. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation Tuesday to have the state review costly special-interest tax breaks to see whether they do what industry lobbyists regularly promise they will do: create or save jobs.

The measure also includes some new special-interest tax breaks meant to, among other things, attract government military contracts and health care manufacturing businesses.

Lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported the concept of Senate Bill 6 by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell — the tax break review legislation — for several years.

An almost identical bill passed the General Assembly in the past, only to be vetoed by Kemp because he wanted a more independent economic analysis, rather than having one done by government reviewers. That issue was fixed in the bill, and it had the governor’s blessing this time around.

SB 6 allows 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 made 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.

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 — as they did this year — 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, had wanted a broader-based study of Georgia’s tax system, something the state does about once a decade. But Hufstetler couldn’t get the House to go along with his idea unless he agreed to renew a rural tax credit program he called “a scam.” He wouldn’t make that deal, so his bill failed on the last night of the session.

The House, meanwhile, tacked onto SB 6 measures that gave or extended tax breaks in a host of areas: for shortline railroads, for medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers, on concrete equipment and supplies, for people who get giant yachts refurbished, for mega-site corporate projects and for Lockheed Martin to better compete for upcoming military jet contracts.

During a bill-signing ceremony in Cobb County, Kemp touted the tax breaks.

“SB 6 is a continuation of our laser-focused approach to incentivizing job growth and economic development across the Peach State and right here in Cobb County,” he said.

Kemp said the health care manufacturing provision was a top priority after the COVID-19 pandemic showed the need to have a pipeline for medical supplies. He said the measure “will create incentives for the in-state production of key medical devices and supplies, ensuring that, moving forward, we never have to rely on foreign powers in times of crisis.”

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks