In meetings with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall asked that appointees to a tax review council include individuals familiar with agriculture and its importance to Georgia.

The meetings at the state capitol stemmed from the passage of House Bill 1405 by Georgia’s General Assembly last session. The bill calls for the creation of a “Council on Tax Reform & Fairness” which will study Georgia’s current tax revenue structure and report its findings and recommendations no later than next January. Duvall emphasized the importance of retaining sales tax exemptions for farm inputs.

“If these exemptions are taken away, many Georgia farms will be in jeopardy,” said Duvall. “If you look at agriculture as a total industry, it plays a huge role in Georgia’s economy.”

Cagle gave assurance that his appointees would value agriculture.

“It’s wise for Farm Bureau to be proactive,” he said, “because everyone needs to be educated on this issue. We encourage you to do it.” Ralston noted the gravity of the state’s budget situation.

“We are caught on the horns of a dilemma,” Ralston said. “However, it is not our intention to go after agriculture; we recognize its value to the state, and I don’t see that changing.”

Two council members will be appointed by the lieutenant governor and two members appointed by the speaker. The rest of the 11-member council is designated by HB 1405. One position is occupied by Gov. Sonny Perdue and two are to be filled by the 2010 chairperson of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the 2010 Georgia chairperson of the National Federation of Independent Business. The other four are to be occupied by economists David Sjoquist of Georgia State University, Jeffrey Humphreys of the University of Georgia, Roger Tutterow of Mercer University and Christine Ries of Georgia Tech.

The recommendations of the council are expected to form the basis of legislation that could be offered by a Special Committee to the General Assembly next year. According to HB 1405, if such legislation is introduced, it will only be subject to an up or down vote without amendment.