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Monday, September 9, 2013 - 12:15pm

New Tax Cuts? Always An Idea In Georgia

Tax reform is likely to be back on the table when state legislators reconvene in January. Gov. Nathan Deal says he’s asked lawmakers to submit ideas about improving Georgia’s tax policy with an eye toward making the state even more attractive to businesses.

Fresh off a trade mission trip to Asia, Gov. Deal says the state is poised to lure more companies, particularly in manufacturing.

That’s partly because of a new trade office the state has just opened on the coast of China.

But he says there’s always room for improvement.

“We believe we’re on the right track,” he told the group. “Now, the problem is sometimes we get complacent. We think we’ve got it made. We think we’ve figured it all out. Sometimes good enough is not good enough.”

He made the remarks Monday at a meeting of the state’s competitiveness initiative panel.

Georgia has one of the lowest tax burdens of any state. But he, elected officials and many companies are considering additional tax cuts and incentives.

Officials with a string of industries lined up to make their case, saying new cuts and incentives will bolster job growth in their sectors.

Michele Rhea Caplinger heads the Georgia office of the Recording Industry Academy, which awards the Grammys. She says Georgia’s colleges are training students for careers in music and music production. But she says:

“We’re losing them to Austin, Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, for jobs," she said. "Sometimes I think the common misconception is that we have this amazing entertainment community and that it’s always going to be a robust community.”

A representative from the gaming industry also lobbied for tax cuts and incentives.

State officials expressed some doubts. The music industry, for example, has grown exponentially in the last decade, one official pointed out. But Caplinger said there's been a recent exodus, although she didn't have figures on hand.

Critics say the state has no way of measuring which incentives work. And they say, many companies add jobs they had already planned for and would have added, even without the incentives. Economic development officials, however, say all states offer incentives and therefore, Georgia can't opt out.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed the state’s competitiveness initiative in 2010. The panel helped convince legislators to phase out a tax on energy used in manufacturing, among other incentives.

Following the trip to Asia, Deal said Georgia could benefit from Japan’s contracting manufacturing sector. The state has already landed jobs that construction equipment maker Caterpillar is moving back to the U.S. from Japan.

The country is facing an energy crunch after the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant forced the shut down of Japan’s entire nuclear arsenal.