Jobs announcement great news for Georgia’s economy

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The Georgia General Assembly convened on Tuesday, Feb. 21 for day 22 of the 2012 session after learning some exciting news for the future of Georgia’s economy.

On Friday, Feb. 17, Governor Deal announced that Caterpillar Inc. will bring over 1,400 jobs to Georgia with the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Athens.

In addition to these jobs at the new plant, Caterpillar’s suppliers and increased retail sales are expected to create another 2,800 jobs. Perhaps the best part of this news was that the jobs were actually coming back on-shore from Japan.

The announcement is tangible evidence that Georgia is in a strong position to compete for jobs as the economy continues to recover.

It is also a reminder that we must continue to work to promote and create a competitive tax and regulatory climate to ensure we remain at the forefront of business expansions and relocations.

In that regard, the state House is working diligently to eliminate unnecessary government regulations through the Red Tape Watch initiative.

This initiative is aimed at soliciting and receiving input directly from small business owners from across the state, which helps us identify burdensome and unnecessary government regulations that prevent Georgia small businesses from thriving.

I encourage business owners in this community to please offer input during this important process.

In addition, it is important we continue to build on efforts that began last year to modernize a tax code that has not been updated since the 1950s when Georgia was primarily an agrarian economy.

In that regard, there are numerous tax initiatives being discussed this session aimed at improving our business climate and promoting a free market in Georgia.

One of those measures that I strongly support is aimed at closing the loophole in our tax code that provides out of state retailers a competitive advantage over in-state brick and mortar retailers that directly or indirectly employ more than 1,000,000 Georgians.

The current disparate treatment of in-state and out-of-state retailers cuts against everything conservatives should promote in terms of a free market.

Not only is it bad policy to pick winners and losers in the tax code in this manner, it is particularly absurd when you consider the losers in this instance are in-state retailers that employ Georgians, pay taxes here and invest in our communities.

Currently, on-line retailers without brick and mortar stores in the state are not required to collect and remit sales tax on purchases made by Georgians.

Rather, the consumer is required to remit the sales tax in the form of use tax on their income taxes, which many Georgians aren’t even aware of. That has been the law since the 1950s.

It makes no sense to put this collection and remittance burden on in-state businesses for purchases made in Georgia, but on the consumer for out-of-state purchases made by Georgians.

Our free market system is based on one set of rules that governs everyone and works for everyone and policies that subvert the free market and create anti-competitive advantages should be abolished.

Further, not only does this put small businesses in Georgia at a disadvantage, but it incentivizes out of state retailers to keep their facilities and jobs out of Georgia.

I believe the government should let the free market work, not pick winners and losers. I will provide updates as this and other tax measures move forward this session.

Also, I am proud to let you know that the Georgia House approved House Bill 879, legislation I previously referenced that I introduced aimed at improving safety for diabetic students in our schools.

The measure will ensure we have personnel in our schools to help these children manage their disease and respond in the event of an emergency. Now that we have passed this bill, it will move on to the Senate for consideration.

In addition to passing legislation this week, we also took time to recognize the brave Georgians in uniform who protect our great state and nation.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, was Georgia National Guard Day. On this day, we honored the sacrifice of our 45 fallen heroes who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns and welcomed their families to the Capitol.

It truly was the most somber and heart-wrenching ceremony I have had the honor to witness during my time in the state House.

We also recognized our current National Guard troops who serve and protect us. It was an honor to recognize these incredible men and women at the State Capitol. We are forever grateful for the sacrifices that they have made for our freedom.

As we move forward into our eighth legislative week, I encourage you to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have regarding matters pending before the General Assembly. Thank you for allowing me to represent this great community.

[Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City) was first elected to the District 72 post in December 2007. He is a law partner with Warner, Hooper, and Ramsey, P.C., in Peachtree City. His email is matt.ramsey@house.ga.gov.]