Decision scheduled on Georgia venture investments

mlee@macon.comMarch 26, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Members of the state Legislature are set to decide Thursday if they will put $10 million of public money into a venture capital fund.

The Senate wants to, the House has so far been silent, and delegates from both chambers are now in a conference committee to iron out the differences in their spending plans for the fiscal year beginning in July.

“Not this year,” said state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, a member of the Appropriations Committee and the bill’s House sponsor. “Our budget is already done,” he said, and there’s no room for what would be called the Invest Georgia Fund.

The bill “opens the door” for funding next year, he said.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, filed an early, unsuccessful, version of the Invest Georgia legislation earlier this year. He’s happy that a similar bill was welded onto the successful House Bill 318 in the Senate.

“If we don’t get money in the budget for funding, we’ll push for it in future years,” Peake said.

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, is a co-sponsor of House Bill 318 in the House and one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s floor leaders.

“The governor supports it, but I don’t think anyone can say if it will be funded,” Hatchett said.

Yet Deal’s opinion counts for a lot with lawmakers. The Senate proposes getting $10 million not from some new tax levy, but from money in the OneGeorgia Authority, a rural economic development agency.

But creation of the fund itself is a step ahead of the decision on putting money into it. The House agreed to the Senate’s version of the bill Monday, which creates the Invest Georgia Fund and a board to oversee it. One of that board’s jobs would be to choose a third-party company to actually manage the money.

That framework is now on Deal’s desk.

Peake’s so-called “angel investor” tax credit was also hitched to House Bill 318. Accredited angel investors put money in the smallest, riskiest startups. This bill changes the sunset on a tax credit for angel investors from 2013 to 2015.

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