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Nancy Badertscher
By Nancy Badertscher November 28, 2014

Deal drops corporate tax cut, opts for others

Republican Nathan Deal promised in 2010 that, if elected governor, he would cut the state corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent.

"We need to give businesses in Georgia every possible incentive to create new jobs, as well as preserve the jobs we have now," Deal said on Oct. 13, 2010.

Four years later, Deal is preparing to assume a second, four-year term as governor. He has signed into law a series of tax breaks. But he is no longer talking of reducing Georgia's corporate income tax to 4 percent.

"We discussed a corporate tax cut, but, when we talked to businesses, we found a better way," Jen Talaber, a Deal spokeswoman, told PolitiFact. "In the end, we still lowered taxes for job creators."

There's a little more to it than that.

In 2011, Deal made a push to reduce the corporate income tax. But his proposal wound up part of a much broader effort to rewrite the state's tax code. The failure of that initiative was blamed, in part, on Republican infighting, as well as on Democrats' warnings that the result could be be a heavier tax burden on middle-class families.

(Georgia's 6 percent corporate tax rate was about average. A drop to 4 percent would have made it one of the lowest.)

The governor subsequently adopted a more piecemeal approach to tax cuts that frustrated some conservative critics. Those measures, which became law in 2012, included:

-- eliminating the state sales tax on energy used for manufacturing, mining, and agriculture;

-- eliminating sales taxes on new car purchases;

-- exempting construction materials from sales tax for regionally significant projects;

-- extending "angel investment" tax credits for high tech startups;

--broadening sales tax exemptions for those in agribusiness;

-- and extending tax credits for qualified entertainment production companies.

The most costly was an income tax cut for married couples.

Cutting the corporate income tax from 6 percent to 4 percent likely would have cost the state about $282 million a year, said Wesley Tharpe, a policy analyst with the left-leaning Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

"The bang for the buck would probably have been pretty low," Tharpe said.

Only the biggest, most profitable companies would have likely benefited, he said.

In 2011, 90 percent of companies filing a corporate return did not have any sizable profit or any corporate tax liability, Tharpe said. Eighty-seven percent of revenues from the corporate tax came from 1,655 businesses - or 1 percent of all corporate filers, he said.

The alternative tax breaks that were passed were much less expensive -- about $63 million over three years, according to a Georgia Budget & Policy Institute analysis from 2012.

This much is clear: As his first term comes to a close, Deal has delivered on tax breaks.

But he didn't deliver on the corporate income tax break he promised.

We rate that Promise Broken.

Our Sources

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Deal plan: Cut corporate income tax," Oct. 13, 2010.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Deal-O-Meter

Deal administration press release, "Deal releases Georgia Competitiveness Initiative report," January 25, 2012.

Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, "Bill Analysis: House Bill 386 Tax Package a Complex Hodgepodge of Reforms," by Wesley Tharpe, policy analyst.

Georgia State University Fiscal Research Center, "An Analysis of Reducing the Corporate Income Tax Rate," April 2012.


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