By ERRIN HAINES (Associated Press)
Gov. Nathan Deal says his goal is to make Georgia the No. 1 state to do business and unveiled a plan focused on infrastructure improvements, tax reform and education.
At the annual Eggs and Issues breakfast, Deal also underscored the need to pass the regional transportation tax this summer, to expand the Savannah harbor and bolster the state’s water supply system.
The event, sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, also featured remarks from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston. Deal, marking his second year in office, discussed details of his “competitiveness initiative,”‘ which includes overhauling the state’s tax code and regulations, investing in infrastructure projects and highlighting Georgia’s research institutions.
Deal announced the competitiveness initiative last year, focused on business climate, education and workforce development, innovation, infrastructure, global commerce and government efficiency and effectiveness. A task force of business leaders and elected officials and more than 4,000 Georgians weighed in at regional meetings held over several months.
Among their proposals: Eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing; creating sales and use tax exemptions for construction materials used in projects of regional significance, to help local governments attract projects to their communities; and updating the job tax credits to help rural areas of the state and lowering the requirement for businesses seeking credits from 50 to 15 jobs created.
Deal also urged the crowd to support the regional transportation tax referenda that is scheduled for the July ballot. He said the infrastructure projects that would be funded by the taxpayers are “imperative” to the state’s economy.
“If the slate of projects in your region provides value, I want to ask you to vote and help get the word out to your friends and family,” Deal said.
The Savannah harbor expansion was also touted as a priority. Deal said the proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 includes $46.7 million in bonds to continue deepening the harbor to handle bigger cargo ships that will start coming through an expanded Panama Canal after 2014.
He said the state will continue to pursue federal funds to support the project.
Deal also announced the Water Supply Program, a low-interest loan program aimed at studies and projects that expand local water supplies — especially the creation of reservoirs to address the state’s long-term needs for a growing population.
Deal’s 2013 budget proposes $45.7 million for water supply projects as the second installment over a four-year period.