The 2006 annual report for General Dynamics Corp., the company's parent, said Gulfstream revenues rose nearly 20 percent and operating earnings increased 30 percent. Gulfstream last year announced a major expansion in Savannah.
Asked about the Gulfstream tax break, Burkhalter said, "I wasn't a big fan of that one."
Headquartered in Savannah and with a site in Brunswick, the company has powerful political backing. The tax break was sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah), chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, and co-sponsored by Keen, another coastal lawmaker. Savannah is also home to Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson.
Keen said lawmakers feared that Georgia would lose airplane repair business to other states that have similar tax exemptions.
Like most of the other tax bills, it passed with overwhelming support.
Other tax breaks the House approved, Keen said, were needed immediately to help construction projects.
"We passed more [exemptions] than we wanted to, but sometimes you've got to make decisions in the short term," Keen said. "Our main goal is to come in [next year] and overhaul the tax code."
Essig questions how much tax breaks for corporations really matter in terms of keeping them competitive or in business. "Is that $10 million to $15 million going to make or break a company, or is that just more profit for them? As opposed to investing in education or health care, do we really need to spend $15 million to tell a company, 'We love you?' "
A SAMPLING OF HOUSE TAX BILLS
* HB 128: Sales tax holiday. Who benefits: Back-to-school shoppers Aug. 2-5, Georgians buying certain energy efficient products Oct. 4-7. Tax cut: $21 million in fiscal 2008
* HB 148: Sales tax exemption for construction materials for an expansion of the Georgia Aquarium. Who benefits: Georgia Aquarium. Tax cut: $8 million over four years.
* HB 193: Extension of sales tax exemption on jet fuel for Delta. Who benefits: Delta. Tax cut: $34 million in fiscal 2008
* HB 225: Expands who can receive income tax deductions for contributions to Georgia Higher Education Savings Plan. Who benefits: Donors with over $100,000 in annual income. Tax cut: $2.8 million
* HB 242: Income tax deductions for buying and selling high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts. Who benefits: Insurers and buyers of high-deductible plans and health savings accounts. Tax cut: $3.9 million
* HB 357: Incorporates federal tax changes into Georgia's tax code. Who benefits: Taxpayers impacted by federal tax code changes. Tax cut: $10 million in fiscal 2007, but $3 million tax increase in fiscal 2008.
Sources: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, legislative fiscal notes, legislation
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