The 2014 Georgia General Assembly has begun with a short list of major issues to tackle. Legislative leaders are saying the session will be very short, and it appears the race to the end has begun. The legislature is skipping the normal “budget recess” next week and will continue to burn legislative meeting days. Additionally, the opening week provided few new bills. Here are some of the highlights from the first week for GCC
2014 GCC Legislative Reception
The Georgia Chemistry Council hosted its annual legislative reception Monday to kick off the beginning of the Georgia General Assembly. Over 150 elected officials attended to learn about the impact of the chemical industry on the Georgia economy. Governor Nathan Deal and his wife dropped by the reception and visited each company display. Over 30 GCC members and guests attended the reception with 11 company displays. During the business luncheon, we had a good discussion with GA EPD Director Jud Turner and several key legislative leaders. After lunch, we had some productive meetings with GCC members’ individual legislators and small group meetings with the Natural Resource Committee chairs from both the House and the Senate.
This year’s product bag was again a big hit with legislators. Providing products made from Georgia produced chemistry helps connect the dots regarding what we do and why we are important. Thanks to everyone that attended GCC Day at the Capitol. Your participation made the event great and created immense political value for the industry.
Gov. Nathan Deal – State of the State Address
Governor Nathan Deal presented his state of the state address to the General Assembly on Wednesday. The governor highlighted some of the major strides the state of Georgia has made towards decreasing the unemployment rate and creating a stronger business environment for continued economic development. Some of his key points were as follows:
- Lowest state unemployment rate in 5 years
- 217,000 new jobs in the state since 2009
- 518% growth in Georgia’s emergency funds since 2009, which has helped Georgia remain one of only 10 states to maintain a AAA bond rating through the Great Recession
- Lowest tax burden on citizens of any state in the nation
The governor encouraged the legislature to continue the hospital bed tax which helps cover the shortfall in Medicaid funding as a result of increased enrollment due to the Affordable Care Act. Governor Deal also committed to funding for several projects including:
- $547 million into the public education system
- Expand the HOPE Scholarship for technical schools
- $44 million to bring Georgia classrooms into the digital age.
- $35 million to deepen the Port of Savannah’s shipping channel
2014 Legislative Issues
Energy Tax Exemption/Excise Tax Repeal
The state excise tax on energy was laudably repealed during the 2012 legislative session, and we continue to thank the legislature. But in counties that have levied and threaten to levy the optional 2% energy excise tax, manufacturers still face a competitive disadvantage with neighboring counties and other states. GCC will continue to encourage the legislature to repeal the excise tax and continue to explore better economic development incentives.
The state has three programs to respond to hazardous site remediation – HRSA, Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) and Brownfields. Each program’s primary goal is to ensure safe remediation, but each one uses different standards to do achieve that end. We believe VRP risk-based standards are the most cost-efficient and effective. GCC is working with GA Environmental Protection Division to make the remediation standards uniform based on the provisions of the VRP. These changes will help put contaminated sites back in productive use much more quickly. One issue that will require legislative change is the restoration of appeal rights in the HRSA program. GCC will have legislation filed to at least restore HRSA listing appeals.
Natural Gas Vehicles
Last year there was an attempt to provide a tax credit for converting certain fleet vehicles from gasoline to natural gas and for the construction of refueling stations. We oppose the use of state funds to encourage the development of competing uses for NG. GCC believes the marketplace should determine the best use of NG, not a state subsidy. We will continue to monitor this issue closely.
- $15.1 billion in product production value
- 3rd largest industry sector
- 19,300 direct jobs with an additional 49,425 related jobs
- $3.5 billion in product export
- $67,000 average salary
- #1 safest job in manufacturing