Monday, August 30, 2010

Georgia Special Council On Tax Reform And fairness Meeting


Meeting for public input held in Augusta

The following testimony was presented.


Council Chairman A.D. Frazier re-stated that one of the primary principles of the commission is to be pro-growth

Chairman stated that the commission would not be establishing opinions on how best to reform the Georgia tax code until November.


1.  Testimony was presented by Barbara Cole with Augusta Newsprint

             She testified that Augusta Newsprint's costs for electricity will be $50m this year, not including the cost of the energy tax


             She said that most surrounding states do not tax energy


She wants the state to keep existing sales tax exemptions for businesses, and extend the exemption to energy


She stated that the state sales tax on energy is 4%, and the local is 3%


She stated that energy amounts to 28% of Augusta Newsprint’s total costs


She stated that Augusta Newsprint is the largest user of electricity in the state

2. Testimony was presented on behalf of University Hospital

                Testimony was offered that University Hospital has an economic impact of $900m


                Stated that sales tax exemption for not–for-profits very important and needed


                Stated that the hospital makes purchases amounting to $150m per year


                Stated that the hospital never charges interest on hospital bills


     Stated that the hospital has received no reimbursement from local government for indigent care since 2001


     Stated that the hospital reimburses doctors for indigent care they provide

2. Bill Tennant testified on behalf of the Waycross City Council

He testified that millions of dollars in sales taxes are not collected by the state due to inefficiencies of the DOR


He blamed the problems on the state legislature

3. Steve Blackburn, President-Elect of the Georgia Cattlemens Association testified

                Stated that land carries a huge tax burden


                Stated that the average cattle herd in Georgia is 30 head of cattle


                Stated that Tennessee and Kentucky use tobacco funds to help cattle farmers make purchases

4. Henry Calley with Spirit Foods testified

                He testified against an increase in the tobacco tax


                He stated that cigarettes amount to 20% to 28% of gross profit for his company


                Stated that Augusta is the 2nd largest sales tax producing city in the state


                He spoke against sales tax on gasoline


                He said he is building three new stores, all in South Carolina because of Georgia taxes


5. Chris Bodine, VP of Standard Aero testified

                Testified that his company employs skilled and highly trained individuals who earn high pay


   He spoke in favor of sales tax exemption the legislature passed (HB116) that provides a sales tax exemption on aircraft maintenance for       aircraft from outside the state


  The exemption has a 2 year sunset


 Questions were asked about the exemption from the council about why the exemption applied only to aircraft from outside the state

6. Representative Chuck Martin testified about HB 116

He stated that the exemption did not include aircraft within the state because they would likely have maintenance within the state anyway, and

 there would be no reason to further incentivize them

7. Mark Rogers of Hillcrest Farms, a dairy farmer testified

                He spoke in favor of sales tax exemptions for agriculture

8. A Member of the Augusta County Commission testified

                He expressed concern about taxes on forest products


                He stated that Augusta once had eight or nine corporate headquarters, but now only one


                He stated that corporate salaries being replaced by low hourly wages

9. A gentleman (I did not get his name) blasted the GREAT Plan.

                Don Parsons editorial note: I don’t believe he knew much about the GREAT plan

10. Sanford Lloyd of the Augusta Chamber of Commerce testified

His message to the commission was to create a tax code that fits Georgia’s needs, and to not try to model it after other states

11. Jim Herman with Augusta Newsprint

                He testified that the company employees 330 people with an average wage of $27 per hour