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Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 2:00am

Tax Bill Sprinting To The Finish Line

A tax reform bill proposed on Monday could be headed for Governor Nathan Deal’s signature as early as Thursday when the state Senate plans to vote on it. Some critics say there’s not enough time to vet the bill before the end of the legislative session next week.

The wide-ranging measure would waive some car taxes, and the sales tax manufacturers pay on energy. It would cut tax incentives for large property owners looking for conservation easements to preserve their land as open space. It also would cap an exemption seniors currently enjoy on retirement income.

The House already passed it overwhelmingly.

The bill has attracted critics from all sides, including Tea Party members and Democratic lawmakers, who say the legislature is moving too quickly.

Bill Hudson is with the conservative nonprofit group, the Madison Forum. He’s says the measure amends a 2009 bill that had cut taxes on non-wage retirement income for seniors.

“That makes that bill in 2009 -- when they were telling us it was a tax cut -- a big tax increase, and I’m not for that,” Hudson said.

Sen. Jason Carter, an Atlanta Democrat, says the bill appears to have some sound elements. But he says it’s too soon to say with certainty if the bill is good or bad.

“The final results of the bill – it’s a cherry-picked sort of a hodge podge of tax programs – so it’s very hard to know what the overall impact would be when you get it at the very last minute,” he said in an interview.

Republicans in both the House and the Senate dismiss the criticisms, saying lawmakers have been considering some form of the plan for nearly two years.

Sen. Bill Heath, a Bremen Republican who will present the bill in the Senate, says lawmakers always hear that they are rushing a bill, no matter what they do. And he says the cap on retirement income would only affect the very wealthy.

"I've already received a lot of emails on this and I don't know where some people get their information," he said of some critics.

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