State House churning through tax requests

mlee@macon.comFebruary 19, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Call them tax breaks or tax incentives, but the state House is starting to churn through new tax policy bills that are attracting interest from airplane mechanics and dialysis clinics to mobile home builders and charities.

A packed room watched the first hearing for House Bill 164, by state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-Brunswick, which would extend a sales tax exemption on airplane parts used in maintenance and repair.

“It’s not a situation of us giving something that would have been done in the state” anyway, said state Rep. Chuck Martin, R-Alpharetta, a member of the House Ways and Means Sales Tax Subcommittee. Instead, he argued that the tax climate causes an industry to grow that might not have otherwise been planted.

Just after that, in front of a slightly thinned crowd, Rep. Chuck Sims, R-Ambrose, argued that the sputtering mobile-home-building industry needs a “helping hand” through a tax shift. His HB 42 would tax mobile homes on 60 percent of their invoice price every time a unit is built, rather than via a sales tax when the home is retailed. Sims predicted the bill would have no net effect on the state tax take.

Then food banks chirped up, saying that donations are down since a tax exemption on food sales to their pantries lapsed in 2010, a situation that would be remedied through June 2016 by House Bill 193, by state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah.

Finally, the subcommittee considered Stephen’s HB 190, which renews a waiver on the sales tax on dialysis equipment.

State Rep. Penny Houston, R-Nashville, asked for more information about the dialysis clinic industry. “I’m not against profit, but I’m against profit when we’re giving them big tax breaks,” she told the subcommittee.

A pair of dialysis company representatives in the audience responded that their margins are thin, at best.

The subcommittee did not take action on the bills. Generally each bill is heard twice before a vote.

An hour later, the full Ways and Means Committee met to divvy up another half-dozen or so bills among subcommittees, most for various tax easements.

There’s HB 348 by state Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, which gives a $2,500 tax credit for the purchase of commercial vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. And HB 304, by state Rep. Tom McCall, R-Elberton, which specifies that materials used in blending fertilizer are not meant to be taxed. And HB 307 by state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, would let companies such as Home Depot or Macy’s that issue branded credit cards claw back state sales taxes from Georgia if the cardholder has defaulted, leaving the vendor short merchandise and the tax that’s supposed to be paid on it.

Another proposal would expand a tax credit for renovating historic structures, adding a top tier credit of $5 million over two years.

“We can look at some bigger opportunities, bigger projects,” Peake said of his HB 308.

Midstate reps join national policy organization

State. Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella, and state Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch, will take seats on committees at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a national bipartisan group that conducts research and training on state government issues and develops policy recommendations. Dickey will sit on the conference’s Environment Committee and Epps on Energy, Transportation and Agriculture. Both men were nominated by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. The terms last two years.

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