ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - State Representative Darrel Ealum (D-Albany) issued a report to the news media about what went on at the General Assembly’s Special Legislative Session, which was called last week by Governor Nathan Deal.
The purpose of the session was to deal with the economic impact caused by Hurricane Michael that entered Southwest Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane and passed over Albany as a Category 2.
Unparalleled in our state’s response to a natural disaster, we passed three bills to send millions in assistance to Southwest Georgia: House Bills HB 1EX, HB 4EX, and HB 5EX.
During this Special Session law makers focused on Southwest Georgia and the $2.5 billion in catastrophic damages and losses to state and private property. Every House Member was acutely aware of the devastation and horrific destruction to our agriculture, timber, and pecan industries, Ealum reported.
HB 4EX provides for a $200,000,000 tax credit for casualty losses by our Southwest Georgia timber and pecan tree growers. This credit may equal 100% of casualty loss and will directly infuse funds into 28 of our counties to assist with the financial burden to replant damaged timber groves and pecan orchards. This credit will surely not cover all losses; however, this act sends a message to Southwest Georgia and to our federal agencies that Governor Deal and our General Assembly has acted decisively to address our losses.
This tax credit is subject to replanting requirements and is equal to 100 percent of the casualty loss deduction reported on the taxpayer’s federal tax return. Although tax credits in excess of the taxpayer’s tax liability will be refunded to the taxpayer, the credit cannot exceed $400 per acre, and the total credits preapproved for all growers may not exceed $200 million. Taxpayers are eligible to claim the credit in the taxable year in which they replant 90 percent of the timber lost from Hurricane Michael.
HB 1EX is a $270,000,000 supplement to the FY 2019 Budget with a large portion of the funds to be allocated to directly assist Southwest Georgia. A few key appropriated measures are as follows:
1. $69 million for the Governor’s Emergency Fund to pay the state match for federal disaster assistance funding for expenses related to damages and operating costs associated with Hurricane Michael.
2. $55 million for emergency disaster relief assistance to our impacted farmers.
3. $20 million for emergency disaster relief assistance for cleanup efforts for timberland and pecan growers.
4. $25 million for the OneGeorgia Authority.
5. $15 million for Regional Economic Business Assistance grants.
6. $69 million from motor fuel funds for transportation funding to offset expenses for cleanup and recovery to match reimbursement funding from the federal government (75%).
HB 5-EX will not have the powerful economic impact for Southwest Georgia like HB 1EX and 4EX; however, the bill will positively impact revenue for our airport. Due to disgruntlement with Delta Airlines by General Assembly Members during our 2018 Legislative Session, the jet fuel tax was extended on all airlines in Georgia. This legislative action negatively impacted all commercial airlines and airports, to include the airport in Albany.
After our regular 2018 Session ended, Governor Deal issued an Executive Order suspending the collection of sales and use tax on jet fuel. HB 5-EX ratified the Governor’s Executive Order and continues the sale and use tax exemption through June 30, 2019. The 2019 Legislative Session will weigh the economic impact and decide whether to continue the exemption.
Delta Airlines’ main hub and headquarters is in Atlanta, and before this bill, Georgia had the 4th highest fuel tax burden among the 21 states with large airports. Atlanta is truly an international city, and continuing the exemption will reinforce Atlanta’s strong position in global travel.
“In my final remarks before the House, I fondly spoke of Albany as the pecan capitol of the world and thanked Governor Deal and the House for this historical act of kindness,” Ealum said. “This is my final newsletter, and I trust my letters have been informative over the years. Serving Albany in the General Assembly has been a joy, and I will forever be appreciative to our citizens for their vote of confidence.”
Representative Darrel Ealum represents the citizens of District 153, which includes portions of Dougherty County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2014, and currently serves on the Banks & Banking, Defense & Veterans Affairs, Human Relations & Aging, and State Properties committees.