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Political Pulse: Businesses ask for simplicity
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As a number of international business leaders descended upon Dahlonega on Thursday, state and local politicians were there, too, in hopes of picking their brains.

Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz was in the crowd, hoping, he said, for some insight on what the local government could do to help business grow.

In a panel discussion later in the morning, state Sen. Steve Gooch arose from the crowd to ask what might be the best way for state lawmakers to approach tax reform.

Most of the responses Gooch got were based on simplicity and flexibility.

Randy Cardoza, managing director of economic development for Atlanta Gas Light's parent company, said companies can't always use state incentive packages. But he stressed simplicity.

"As far as the tax structure, the simpler and the easier it is" for companies to find something that works, the better, he said.

Gooch heard from the CEO of an Italian company with an Atlanta branch that job tax credits need to be tailored to industries. While Futura North America doesn't employ large numbers of people, it does bring jobs that pay higher.

Currently, some job tax credit programs set a limit at the number of jobs. Lawmakers, including Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, sought to lower the threshold of at least one of those programs this legislative session, but the state didn't have the budget to do it.

Barry Anderson, the general manager of a Gainesville branch of a German gear manufacturer, said tax incentive programs based on sales don't help new companies get off the ground.

A lot of Georgia's tax incentive programs require companies to have sales in Georgia to qualify.

"We're not able to take advantage of that," Anderson said.

Georgia lawmakers have promised to tackle tax reform in some manner or another this year that will help make Georgia more attractive to business. It's unclear what knowledge they'll take from the business community and translate into new laws and whether that change will make it through this year.

At the beginning of this year's legislative session, Gov. Nathan Deal expressed a desire to restructure Georgia's job tax credit programs and eliminate other taxes on businesses to encourage job growth for small businesses.

Aside from a much talked about proposal to eliminate a sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, Deal also wants lawmakers to exempt sales taxes on construction materials used in projects "of regional significance."

Those efforts have made little headway. And there are about seven days left in this year's legislative session.

But a spokesman for the governor, Brian Robinson, expressed optimism to The Associated Press last week that there will be something in it for businesses by the end of the legislative session.

"We feel like we're in good shape going into the last 10 days of the session," Robinson told the AP. "We're going to implement tax reform that will bring jobs to Georgia. ... We're optimistic that we will get a plan that will save tax dollars and save lives."

I guess we'll find out very soon.

Ashley Fielding is the senior political reporter for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with her:


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