The past few years have not been easy for our state. Georgia took a tough hit during the last recession, and we have all heard about or experienced the impacts of a down economy firsthand.
While there is still a long road ahead to recovery, we are finally seeing some consistent signs that we are heading in the right direction. State revenues are trending up, unemployment is trending down and the first three months of this year have all included significant economic development announcements.
The General Assembly passed two bills last week that will without question help us continue these positive trends. Based on the work of the tax reform council that met throughout 2010 and the competitiveness initiative spearheaded by Gov. Nathan Deal that gathered input from business leaders across the state last year, significant measures were developed that will allow Georgia to help our existing companies, attract new investment and retain our rightful position as an economic leader.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce was proud to play a role in this process, and we commend our elected leaders -- on both sides of the aisle -- for understanding just how important these measures are for businesses and families throughout the state.
As soon as the governor signs HB 386 and HB 868, our state will begin to see the benefits of:
- Putting Georgia on an even playing field with other states in the Southeast and across the nation by phasing out the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, mining and agriculture -- three industries that play a key role in our economy;
- Updating the state's economic development tax credit and incentive programs in a way that makes us competitive with the rest of the nation and will ensure results with regard to job creation and investment;
- Bringing back sales tax holidays for school supplies and water-efficient products, which will save Georgians money and provide a boost to our border communities;
- Leveling the playing field for home-grown companies by clarifying current online sales tax laws to include purchases from out-of-state businesses;
- Making changes to personal tax measures including the "birthday tax" and marriage deduction that will put more money back into Georgians' pockets.
These measures, along with others included in the legislation, are a critical step forward in our quest to make Georgia the very best state in the nation in which to do business. Just as important is the signal this sends to economic developers, site selectors and companies determining where they want to invest.
With the passage of these bills, we have let the world know that Georgia is open for business, willing to provide the support companies need to be successful and mindful of the impact of tax policies on those who call our state home. As a result, our road to recovery will be much easier to travel.
Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.