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Mayor: Excise tax passage unlikely
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After concerns raised about the message it would send to potential businesses and doubts about the amount of revenue it would bring, the idea of an excise tax on manufacturer energy consumption seems dead in the water, according to Conyers’ mayor.  The Chamber of Commerce had also taken a vote against the issue Wednesday.

“I don’t think this is going to happen,” said Mayor Randy Mills on Wednesday. “It’s a non-starter, for me personally.”

 He said while the issue was discussed extensively at city council last Wednesday and tabled, it will probably die in committee. After discussion with the staff all day Wednesday, Mills said he was against the idea as was Councilman Vince Evans, who chairs the council's economic development committee.

The main concern is putting any stumbling block to attracting or retaining businesses and manufacturers. The amount of monetary benefit the city would see is also very unclear, said Mills. “It was a very nebulous formula.” 

The 2012 state legislature passed a law eliminating the 7 percent sales tax paid on energy consumed by manufacturers starting January 1, 2013. Of the 7 percent sales tax manufacturers currently pay on energy consumption, 4 percent goes to the state, 2 percent is received locally and 1 percent is paid to the school board. However, the bill allows counties and cities to make up for that lost revenue by levying an excise tax on manufacturers’ energy consumption for the 2 percent that is collected locally.

City Manager Tony Lucas said currently the city sees about 15 percent of sales tax from its portion of the one-penny SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) which is collected throughout the county. If the excise tax were levied by Conyers, the city would keep 100 percent of that one penny sales tax amount but it would only be on businesses within the city limits and only for energy expended for manufacturing, not for administrative or other purposes.

There is no reliable way to estimate how much that tax could represent because the only source of information on energy use is with each of the companies themselves, said Lucas. 

Mills said while there is no reliable estimate, he felt the amount would be small and not worth the harm the excise tax might cause to the city's reputation as being business-friendly.

Lucas pointed out Rockdale County indicated it would not be passing such a tax and Newton County nor Covington have passed such a tax.

The Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce Board also took a stand unanimously against a proposed excise tax on Wednesday.

 Chamber President Lorraine Harrison said, “It wasn’t a campaign against this. It was a vote to ask the board members to express their concern to the city council about this.”

Chamber board member and former City Councilman Marty Jones brought up the issue.

Jones, who is on the Chamber’s economic development committee, said, “I think it sends a bad message to the business community. We’re trying to recruit businesses out here…  You don’t need to set yourself apart from your competitors by charging more.”

Chamber board member Terry Taschwer who represents Pratt, one of the largest manufacturers/businesses in Rockdale, later pointed out the legislative intent of the bill was to remove the tax altogether to make Georgia more competative in attracting and keeping businesses.