Georgia State Capitol

Georgia State Capitol

Credit: Stephen Fowler/GPB file photo

The Georgia Senate gave final passage Wednesday to several bills offering tax breaks to various types of businesses.

House Bill 1041, which passed unanimously, would increase the annual cap on the state’s rural hospital tax credit program from the current $60 million a year to $75 million. The original version had called for raising the annual limit to $100 million.

Eight rural hospitals in Georgia have closed during the last decade for lack of operating funds, said Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, who carried the House bill in the Senate.

“Without a rural hospital, a community is not viable,” he said. “And without being viable, a community dies.”

The rural hospital tax credit offers dollar-for-dollar credits to taxpayers who donate to a rural hospital in their community.

Hickman said the $60 million cap on the tax credit last year was reached in August. This year, donations to rural hospitals are running 75% ahead of last year, he said.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who was instrumental in creating the tax credit in 2016 as a member of the state House of Representatives, said the key to its success has been its flexibility.

“We don’t try to sit in this building and tell [rural hospitals] how to spend those dollars,” said Duncan, who presides over the Senate

The Senate also voted 48-6 to exempt from state sales taxes the purchase of tickets to nonrecurring major sporting events held in Georgia.

Sponsors of events including the Super Bowl, college basketball’s Final Four, the college football playoffs and soccer’s World Cup demand tax breaks on ticket sales from host states, said Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, who carried House Bill 1034 in the Senate.

The Final Four generated more than $100 million in economic impact in 2013, the last time it was held in Atlanta, Albers said.

“We know the economic results of getting one of these,” he said.

Senators also voted 50-1 to offer Georgia’s timber industry the same exemption from property taxes on equipment used in timber harvesting that already goes to the purchasers of farm equipment.

“This bill is long overdue to bring equity and relief for our forestry community,” said Sen. Larry Walker III, R-Perry, who carried House Bill 997 in the Senate.

The tax break will be subject to a statewide referendum before it can take effect.

All three bills now head to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a Project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.