ATLANTA – State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, will head a committee to examine whether the state’s various tax exemptions for businesses are sparking growth and creating jobs.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle appointed Albers to serve as chairman of the Senate Special Tax Exemption Study Committee.
The six-member Senate panel will work with the Department of Revenue to examine the costs and benefits of all state tax exemptions. The committee is responsible for submitting a report of findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation, by
Albers said tax exemptions are normally used as incentives to promote business and investment in the state, bringing in more jobs or more investment in infrastructure by these businesses. The state normally looks at these tax breaks as an investment for which it expects a return.
For instance, Jimmy Carter as governor started a nascent film industry offering generous tax breaks to filmmakers that saw such films as “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance” shot in the state.
Year-round film studios operate in Georgia, and today the state is No. 1 in films produced shot in the U.S., ahead of California.
Albers said his committee will use return on investment as the acid test for continuing business tax incentives.
“The numbers from the film industry is $330 million in tax credits was balanced by $9.5 billion spent in Georgia,” he said.
While the film industry has been one of the high-profile successes in Georgia’s incentives program, he said the committee will be vigilant against “sweetheart” deals that don’t benefit Georgia in a material way.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to properly and thoroughly examine the purpose of tax exemptions in our state,” Albers said. “It is our goal to ensure that each exemption has the potential for a return on investment.”
Albers said the committee will address any outdated exemptions that may hurt businesses or give unfair advantage to some.
“We want to ensure that exemptions benefit Georgia’s economy and businesses, big and small,” he said.
Again, Albers pointed to the Georgia film industry.
“Pineland Studios in Fayette County is now the second largest studio in the world – and it has room to grow,” Albers said. “And that is not only employing actors and directors. They employ carpenters, electricians and cameramen. They hire caterers and site selectors. They shoot all over Georgia, which feeds the local economies.”
Tours of the “Walking Dead” TV series is a cottage industry in nearby Senoia.
“But while some tax incentives are doing a great job, we need to update what we are doing and take a broad look at their effectiveness,” Albers said. “There are some head-scratchers out there that ought to be eliminated.”
In all, there are 140 tax incentivized programs out there, and Albers wants to look at all of them.
“The lieutenant governor wants our report by the end of the year, but we won’t be finished by then,” he said.
Albers wants to see what can be done to pave the way for other industries in Georgia and points to the growing craft brewing industry in the state.
“It is being stifled by old brewing laws,” he said.
Albers made it clear more work should be done to ensure the taxpayers get their money’s worth back when handing out tax incentives.