The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a major tax reform package two years ago that slashed taxes on energy, jet fuel, construction materials and auto sales. Farmers received a hefty financial boost with the demise of the sales tax on dozens of agricultural products.
So too did 13 legislators.
Sen. Tommie Williams, a Republican who once served as the chamber’s president pro tem, no longer pays the 7 percent sales tax on chemicals and other farm goods for his olive oil business in Lyons. Rep. Tom McCall, a Republican who chairs the House Agriculture Committee, is exempt from paying taxes on feed and fertilizer for his Elberton farm.
They, and 11 other legislators, voted for the tax reform bill that included the sales tax exemption. Critics argue that their votes smack of conflicts of interest since they benefit from the tax break.
“This is a pretty classic illustration of it,” said Gary Horlacher, a lobbyist and Democrat who once ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State on an ethics reform platform. “The reality is agriculture is a very valuable resource in Georgia. But this is another example of people on the inside knowing how the game is played and benefitting from it.”