Energy tax repeal on Georgia wish list

Energy tax repeal on Georgia wish list

December 17th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Georgia state Representative Tom Dickson (R Cohutta)

Photo by Jessica Lowry

DALTON, Ga. -- Two Northwest Georgia lawmakers hope the second time is the charm to end the state's energy tax on manufacturing, mining and agriculture in the upcoming legislative session.

"It is one of the ways to protect the viability and expansion of industry," said one of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta.

Lawmakers discussed the issue last year but did not pass any legislation on it.

This year, Dickson and Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, say they are confident the bill has garnered strong support. The men discussed the bill in a Thursday meeting with media at Dalton State College.

"I think it will be looked at both as a broad part of tax reform and as a stand-alone bill," Bethel said. "It may end up falling somewhere between those two, but it will certainly be an important issue."

The tax brings in about $150 million a year for Georgia, but repeal supporters say it impedes business expansion.

Georgia is one of only 10 states that charge sales tax on energy without some exemptions, according to information from the Georgia Public Service Commission. The commission recently sent a letter to the Georgia General Assembly requesting the repeal.

Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia do not charge sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, while Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee charge reduced rates, the letter noted.

Georgia has lost more than a billion dollars in manufacturing expansions and new businesses because of the energy tax, the public service commission letter states.

"Manufacturing employment is rebounding in many other states at a faster rate than in Georgia," the commission's letter to lawmakers says. "The principal reason, according to manufacturers across the state, is that it is more expensive to produce their products in Georgia than elsewhere, especially in the Southeast. Georgia remains non-competitive with its neighboring states, and nearly all states, by taxing energy used in manufacturing."

The energy tax repeal is especially popular among officials of the carpet manufacturing industry in Whitfield, Gordon and Murray counties, since the industry is energy intensive.

Bethel and Dickson said they did not know exactly how much money the repeal would save the carpet industry, but that it would be significant.

If the repeal is enacted, it may be phased in over several years to lessen the impact to state coffers, Dickson said. So far, lawmakers said, they do not have details on how else they will make up the shortfall.

"Eventually we hope to make it up with increased revenue," Dickson said.