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Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 1:17pm

Tax Reform Surges Ahead

State lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday that would reinstate the back-to-school sales tax holiday and eliminate the sales tax on energy used by manufacturers. It would also change some taxes on car purchases and force out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on some Internet purchases.

While they considered another tax reform plan at length during the 2011 legislative session, they only revealed details of this plan on Monday.

And conservative activists, including Tea Party members, were among those Tuesday who said lawmakers are moving too fast to allow for a thorough discussion of the plan.

Kay Godwin with Georgia Conservatives in Action wanted lawmakers to hold off on voting on the measure.

“We got this bill yesterday afternoon," Godwin said before the vote. "We had less than 24 hours to look at it before it will be voted upon. There are bits and pieces of it that are unacceptable that we should have time to sit down and talk about it before they are just pushed through.”

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, rebuffed this notion, saying lawmakers have been considering some form of the plan for nearly two years.

House Democrats last year opposed a GOP-backed plan would have changed income tax rates. But this plan doesn’t contain the same provisions.

Last year's plan was based in part on the broad recommendations of a non-partisan council charged with overhauling the tax code. It also included re-instating a grocery sales tax.

The plan stalled and lawmakers never voted on it.

So this year, they took a more modest tack.

Rep. Mickey Channell of Greensboro chairs the committee overseeing tax reform.

"This bill isn’t a comprehensive tax reform package," he said during floor debate. "It does however contain some pro-family, pro-job changes that taken altogether will make a difference to the citizens of our state.”

The plan would also tax online sales of Georgia-made products.

Tea Party activists say the Internet tax penalizes consumers.

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