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This time, Georgia Senate says no to last-minute special-interest tax break

James Salzer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

It was almost 11:30 p.m. on the last night of the General Assembly session, only 30 minutes away from the traditional final gavel at midnight.

Time enough for the Georgia Senate to take up a last-minute special-interest tax break, which is also a legislative tradition.

Only this time, the Senate said, “No thank you.”

After a heated debate, a rare bipartisan coalition of senators stalled a proposed constitutional amendment — Senate Resolution 82 — that would have given timber growers a tax break and forced state taxpayers to foot the bill for revenue that local governments would lose because of it.

Criticism of the measure incensed its sponsor, Sen. Carden Summers, R-Cordele, who is in the farming, real estate and outdoor advertising business and first filed what became the final version of SR 82 in February 2023.

“We sit here and we give tax breaks all the time to everybody that walks in here with their hands out if they wear a suit and tie and carry a briefcase,” Summers told colleagues. “And we don’t want to give tax breaks to a timber farmer.”

 

But Senate Finance Committee Vice Chairman John Albers, R-Roswell, called it a “bad bill.”

“What we are setting up in place is in the future, we as a legislative body are going to allow everybody else’s tax dollars to go supplant what should have been local property taxes to pay for county governments, cities and schools,” he said. “I have been here 14 years, and I have never heard anyone say the timber industry is in dire straits and it’s not going to survive if it doesn’t get some kind of a tax break.”

Last-minute tax breaks not uncommon

SR 82 aside, the General Assembly has a long history of passing last-minute special-interest tax breaks.

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©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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