The Georgia State Senate has had a very busy off-session!
But before I tell you about that, I want to share my decision to retire from my full-time status as an anesthetist. I will continue to help when I can because our field has also experienced a personnel shortage. However, after 11 years of working full-time and as your state senator (considered part-time but mostly full-time), I have been more than just busy. My decision will allow more time for family and the increasing responsibilities of my constituents and as the Finance chair for Georgia.
I am pleased to report to you that the governor continues to focus on “kitchen table” issues for Georgia. We have now returned tax refunds for two years of $500 per family. This is made possible because of our booming economy supported by our strong fiscal policy. We also accepted unspent stimulus money from the federal government, which we have designated to be used for broadband, strengthening our infrastructure, and setting aside for inevitable future needs.
As you recall, we also suspended the gas tax for almost a year. This was done to help abet the high prices that inflation causes. As the sponsor of the gas tax suspension and as finance chair, I am pleased to see tax refunds and other kitchen table issues, such as the $500 to $600 deduction from your local tax bill. It is gratifying to have a governor who shares our concerns and views and has the clout to make good things happen for Georgians.
The state does not collect property taxes, but collections are up in many areas due to increased assessments. In 2002, when I served on the Floyd County Commission, we initiated a “floating homestead exemption,” which meant the county part of your bill stays the same no matter what your new home assessment reads. However, this does not apply to the schools; that is where the increase is. I have been tasked at the state level to look at legislation in January to keep the drastic increases people are seeing on their property tax bills to a minimum. We realize the money we are sending to the local governments this year is only a band-aid. Obviously, an overall change in the structure is needed.
We set a record three years ago to double new jobs coming to Georgia via new companies – we broke that record. We continue to break records. Just over the Floyd County line, we hold the third largest investment in Georgia with the new SK Battery Plant. Major investments by Qcells solar panels are highlighted by the recent announcement of Switch, a $770M data center in Bartow County, and inside our 52nd senate district.
I toured Switch’s data center in Las Vegas about four years ago. This is a data center of giant proportions. In perspective, for example, everything that is ESPN Cable Network goes through the center. It contains redundant power and air conditioning sufficient to cool the massive equipment and computers, along with its own fire station. Strict security aids in maintaining a sterling reputation, which is imperative for its global customer base. Such a center can never be offline, not even for a millisecond. The good news includes that the plant will grow the property tax base without incurring heavy costs. I am confident that Rome and Floyd County are on the edge of securing companies such as these, and we don’t have to ‘give the farm away’ to entice them to build here.
Speaking of which, I am pleased that our tax credit study committee, which I chair, chose to meet in Rome in September. Continuing through November, the study is focused on evaluating the billions of dollars allowed in corporate tax breaks. My hope is that we can eliminate unnecessary ones and have lower tax rates for everyone.
As always, I thank you all for allowing me the opportunity.