A tax break to help tourism attractions in Georgia has been law since 2011. But the measure is too complicated to be put into place.
The law allows the Governor to approve the tax breaks after an independent board determines if a project is eligible. One requirement is to draw at least 25 percent of visitors from outside Georgia without competing with existing businesses.
But Saralynn Stafford with the Department of Community Affairs says the law is vague on who those evaluators should be. She says they also can’t figure out how to calculate the number of out-of-state visitors who would be attracted by the projects.
“We know we’ve got some really strong potential projects that are just waiting on us to get the rules and regulations developed. But we just can’t see a way to move forward until these issues can be fixed.”Stafford says.
She says “It doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to work this out with rules and regulations, so let's go and talk about what we see would be feasible in a legislative amendment, maybe, to the bill rather than starting from scratch.”
She says the General Assembly will have to tweak the legislation before the tax break can be used.
A spokesman says Gov. Nathan Deal would deny a tax break to a planned convention hotel on Jekyll Island because it would be unfair to competing hotels.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Tuesday the governor has given plenty of support to the island state park, where Georgia taxpayers have invested $50 million to build a new convention center and beachfront park. Robinson said subsidizing a hotel would be "a step further than we could go."
Jekyll Island officials say they're losing convention groups because the developer of a 200-room Westin can't get financing to start construction. The developer tried to secure its loan by promising $8.5 million from a tourism tax break Deal signed last year. But the tax refund remains unavailable to businesses 16 months later.