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Surprise veto sidetracks charity tax break


By ANDY MILLER/Georgia Health News

May 14, 2013 — Among Gov. Nathan Deal’s five vetoes this year, probably the most surprising one targeted a bill that would have given sales tax breaks to charitable medical clinics, federally qualified health centers, food banks and other charities.

The measure, House Bill 193, had overwhelming legislative support. It passed the House unanimously during the 2013 legislative session, and the Senate approved it 52-2.

The legislation would have restored sales tax exemptions for community health centers and volunteer charity clinics – tax breaks that had sunset (expired automatically) in 2010. Other exemptions would have gone to food banks; hunger relief nonprofits; food donated for disaster relief; and for Goodwill.

If Deal had signed the bill, medical and other supplies that these nonprofits buy would have had no sales tax imposed. The fiscal impact of the bill would have been a total of $9 million over three years in state and local tax revenue.

Deal’s veto message on HB 193 notes that a 2010 tax reform council recommended that all non-government and non-business exemptions sunset so the Legislature can decide whether they justify being renewed.

Deal said in his message that he would ask the Competitiveness Initiative task force to review the bill and render an opinion on whether it is justified.

But Alan Essig of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute told GHN in an interview Tuesday that this principle of reviewing tax breaks “was used selectively’’ by the governor. Deal signed a tax break bill that will benefit Gulfstream and that will cost the state more in tax revenue than the break for charities would have, Essig said.

Luxury-jet manufacturer Gulfsteam Aerospace got a tax break even if many Georgia charities did not.

Luxury-jet manufacturer Gulfsteam Aerospace got a tax break even if many Georgia charities did not. (Photo: Scott Wright/Flickr)

There are “clear public benefits’’ to the charities bill, Essig said, and “no public benefits to House Bill 164,’’ which renews a sales tax exemption for parts used in repairing and upgrading aircraft registered to out-of-state owners. It will primarily benefit Gulfstream, a luxury aircraft maker headquartered in Savannah.

Deal’s use of the Competitiveness Initiative task force, Essig said, ‘‘came out of left field.’’ That body mainly has to do with economic development, he said, and it hasn’t met since last year.

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for the governor, said, ‘‘The Gulfstream tax issue was a renewal. Moving forward, we want to have a system in place for groups seeking exemptions so that [the process is] not piecemeal. Yes, the Competitiveness Initiative council will be meeting again, and that’s where this process will begin.’’

The veto came as a surprise to people who followed the charities bill, including its sponsor, state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), a pharmacist.

Duane Kavka, executive director of the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care, whose members include 28 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) with 141 clinic sites, said ‘‘any money our members save is put back into services to the uninsured.’’

Donna Looper, executive director of the Georgia Charitable Care Network, which has more than 100 clinics, told GHN that the veto was puzzling to her. “Any money that the clinics don’t have to spend paying sales tax goes right into patient care,’’ she said.

The free clinics and the FQHCs are a major part of the health care safety net in Georgia, serving the state’s large number of uninsured.

This article is published with permission of Georgia Health News, a non-profit news website that’s covered the most important health-care stories in Georgia since 2010.





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3 Responses to “Surprise veto sidetracks charity tax break”

  1. Neal Smith says:

    It is no surprise to find that Gulf Stream $$$ are more important than the health and well-being of those who will never ride in such style. Gov. Deal continues to show the behavior that investigated by the House Ethics Committee in 2010. And he talks about ethics.

  2. E, Denise Caldon says:

    In response to your statement: “He (Gov. Deal) did not apply that principle, however, when he signed a bill last month extending an estimated $18 million tax break to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a Savannah-based manufacturer of luxury jets.”
    Given the fact that Georgia government officials “ranks dead last in ethics and integrity” (according to The Center for Public Integrity), I am on record stating that there is much more to the story as to why Governor Deal gave Gulfstream Aerospace an “estimated $18 million tax break to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a Savannah-based manufacturer of luxury jets.”
    Caroline Bell Keller – step/daughter of former USG College President David A. Bell is the Assistant General Counsel for – you guessed it – Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation!
    Keller’s Deposition on 7 June 2010 confirmed her Father, President David A. Bell, “was gone (mentally) years ago” and stated that her family had tried for years to communicate with the Board of Regents – to which they received no response – as their family was seriously considering a “medical intervention.”
    Keller’s Deposition is among the vast number of documents in the Georgia Whistleblower case Caldon vs BOR 2009-CV-165267 to which Attorney General Sam Olens (yes, the government transparency advocate) filed four “Responses in Opposition” in Fulton Cty. Superior Court to keep the facts sealed on behalf of his defendants – the Board of Regents of the USG.
    Governor Nathan Deal was apprised of Caroline Keller’s Deposition which, again, confirms the facts in this cover up of a USG president’s mental health decline for years while in serving as a USG public college president and unquestionable ethical and fiscal violations that have been in place for years by our state’s higher education system’s officials.
    I, of course, have a copy of Keller’s full Deposition on my computer in PDF and all the sealed documents.

  3. Marilyn Ringstaff says:

    Twice in the last week at the Women of W.O.R.T.H. Clinic in Rome,Ga we’ve had to take our very small amount of donation money– that is supposed to pay for cervical cancer screening for our women who can’t get appointments at our health departments for Paps smears–to pay for office visits for uninsured hypertensive women so they don’t have a stroke before they can get a Free Clinic appointment. Most of our now 1300+ women would qualify for Medicaid if our governor would accept the federal Medicaid expansion money.

    So, not only is our current Georgia governor refusing to expand the Medicaid program, he is also eliminating other aid for our uninsured citizens? I guess we’ll keep having yard sales to pay for preventive health care- y’all come out this week-end at 1513 Dean Ave in Rome, Georgia to help us. We’ll have petitions to sign!