A bill that would create review panels to study Georgia’s tax and revenue structure — and draft legislation to rein in wasteful spending or tax breaks — advanced in the Georgia Senate on Wednesday.
Sponsored by state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, the bill proposes a joint House-Senate council tasked with assessing the revenue and tax structure this year and submitting recommendations in early 2022.
It would also separately create a joint committee that would bring legislation based on the council’s recommendations to propose revenue-structure changes during the 2022 legislative session.
Hufstetler, who chairs the state Senate Finance Committee, said his bill follows up on a wide-ranging review completed in 2010 that led to some changes for Georgia taxes including the state motor-fuels tax.
“This would do the project all over again and say, ‘What do we need to do for the next decade to remain competitive?’” Hufstetler said at a hearing Wednesday. “Obviously, if we sit still, other states will pass us.”
The committee voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate floor.
Hufstetler is among several state lawmakers who have set their sights on taking deeper dives into how Georgia raises money to pay for schools, law enforcement, health care and other taxpayer-funded services.
Members of the committee threw their support behind the bill, citing the COVID-19 pandemic that hit state revenues hard last year.
“If we want to continue to be the No. 1 place to do business … I think a bill like this makes a lot of sense for us to be fiscally responsible and investigate opportunities around that,” said Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White.
Hufstetler’s bill follows other legislation by Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, to curb wasteful loopholes in the state’s tax structure by auditing up to five tax-credit programs each year. That bill passed out of the full Senate Feb. 1 and is awaiting consideration in the state House of Representatives.
Amid the push for more tax review, the Finance Committee shelved a bill last week by state Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, aimed at bringing more real-time scrutiny to state tax incentives before they gain approval from the General Assembly.
Rahman’s bill would require measures that create or change tax incentives to include an economic analysis examining the proposal’s impact on state revenues, spending, overall economic activity and the public interest before they can pass the legislature.
Lawmakers have largely skirted discussions so far on whether to raise Georgia’s tax on tobacco products from the current 37 cents per pack to the national average of $1.81. Advocates argue the increase could raise an estimated $700 million in additional revenues per year.