Thursday, February 5, 2009

Georgia:House Ways and Means Committee Approves Millions in Corporate and Special Interest Tax Breaks While Elderly and Children Face Reduced Services

With the state facing a $2.2 billion deficit, the Georgia House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee approved today over $30 million in state tax breaks for airlines and owners of private aircraft, at the same time that the House Appropriations Committee was holding a public hearing highlighting the impact of state budget cuts on Georgia's most vulnerable populations. House Bill 212 gives airlines a $24 million state tax break on the purchase of jet fuel, while House Bill 116 gives an estimated $7 million sales tax break to out-of-state private aircraft owners who repair their aircraft in Georgia.

Special tax preferences passed in the last four years will cause an estimated $250 million loss in state funds this year, according to the tax bills' original fiscal notes. While millions of dollars in tax breaks have been approved for special interests, the Department of Human Resources faces budget cuts of almost $150 million. Examples of cuts include:

* Reduction in child protective service workers ($9.5 million).
* Elimination of funding for family violence shelters ($0.8 million) and sexual assault centers ($0.6 million).
* Reduction in food stamp and Medicaid eligibility positions making it more difficult for those in need to obtain food assistance and healthcare ($4.8 million).
* Reduction in funding for substance abuse and addictive disease services ($4.6 million).
* Reduction in funds for the Mental Retardation Waiver Program ($3.4 million).
* Reduction in funds for services for the elderly including nutritional services (meals on wheels), Alzheimer's services, and various home based services ($6.3 million).
* Reduction in Public Health Grants to counties ($2.5 million).

"Georgia leaders are scaling back essential services like meals on wheels, public health, and access to safety net services, at the time when people need them the most," said Sarah Beth Gehl, Deputy Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. "It is time we begin to scale back some of the corporate and special interest tax breaks rather than renewing them this year."

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