Editorial

3/4/2013

Incentives need to go to actual tourist draws

Georgia legislators need to be careful about handing out tax incentives in this state. The last thing any of us needs, including the men and women breaking their backs working to eke out a living, is for the state to offer sweet tax-exempt deals to encourage a game of leap-frog among businesses - where they close shop in one county and jump to an adjoining one to take advantage of a juicy tax break available through the Georgia Tourism Development Act of 2011.

The very name of the act makes it sound like something designed to foster new tourism draws. It does that, but not for "tourism draws" one usually thinks of, not even in the 21st century. A tourism draw today can be something as simple as a super-sized Walmart near a mega-shopping complex that features national chain stores and movie theaters.

Many cities and counties already have this, though perhaps not all compressed together or listed under a tourism label. Centralize them in one area and residents from as far away as two counties over might consider coming to town to shop - that is, until they get their own "tourist attraction."

Gov. Nathan Deal has kept this legislation on ice, and rightly so. Perhaps it is because he sees it for what it is - a net loss for the state instead of a net gain, as its sponsors suggest.

What could the state possibly gain by encouraging business in one county to shut down and move to another county just so it can get back 25 percent of the sales taxes it pays? It would not be a job gain, but it would be a loss of tax revenue, a loss that working men and women would have to make up.

By all means, offer tax incentives to movie makers, theme parks and other real tourist attractions, ones that are more than a Walmart, a handful of specialty shops and a movie theater.

Walmart does not need a tax incentive. It is growing without the assistance of government or the labor and sweat of Georgians. And so will other businesses that see a future in expansion.