Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State Eyes Hurricane Sales-Tax Holiday; Move to Cut the Cost of Supplies Was a Great Success in Florida

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State Eyes Hurricane Sales-Tax Holiday; Move to Cut the Cost of Supplies Was a Great Success in Florida

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN BASINGER

ATLANTA -- One week after Florida ended its first sales-tax holiday on the purchase of hurricane supplies, Georgia officials say they're interested in creating a similar event for Peach State residents.

From June 1 to June 12, Floridians got the chance to buy such items as portable generators, flashlights, ice chests and radios tax-free. Lawmakers hatched the idea as a direct result of the 2004 hurricane season in which four named storms slammed the Sunshine State and caused roughly $42 billion in damage.

Knowing that many tropical systems often hit Florida and then trek into Georgia with flooding rains, powerful winds and occasional tornadoes, some Georgia leaders believe it would be a good idea for the state to offer a sales-tax holiday of its own on disaster supplies.

"I think it's something we ought to look at," said House Public Safety Chairman Burke Day, R-Tybee Island. "We were spared last year's fury, but I think that makes the point that this is something we should look at and do in this state."

Georgia and Florida have held back-to-school tax holidays to encourage residents to buy clothing, books and educational supplies at reduced costs.

However, a disaster-supply tax holiday is a new concept.

House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said the idea of holding a sales-tax holiday on disaster items in Georgia could be beneficial to the state.

Even if another tropical system never hit Georgia, Harbin pointed out that people could still buy supplies that come in handy during ice storms, thunderstorms and floods.

"If people are prepared, I would assume in the long run that saves [the state] money in health costs and other costs," Harbin said.

Florida officials say they consider their sales-tax holiday a success, noting that initial reports indicate at least 60,000 portable electric generators alone were purchased.

"We looked at it as another great way to give Floridians one less excuse not to be prepared," said Mike Stone, spokesman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Stone noted that sales were probably boosted somewhat thanks to Tropical Storm Arlene, which made landfall June 11 along the Florida Panhandle.

"I'm sure that helped turn out the folks who hadn't gotten out during the first couple of days [of the sales-tax holiday]," Stone said.

A final report on Florida's tax holiday will be issued later this summer. So far, lawmakers haven't decided whether they will repeat the event in 2006.

The last time Georgia took a direct hit from a hurricane was in 1979, when Hurricane David, a Category 2 storm, passed through the Savannah area, causing power outages, but little structural damage.

Still, Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine noted last week it takes only one storm to cause extensive problems -- even for interior parts of the state like Athens and Augusta.

"A lot of people in Augusta probably don't realize that if a hurricane hits the Georgia coast dead-center, it's probably going to keep coming to Augusta," said Oxendine, who noted he would fully support a sales-tax holiday on disaster supplies. …

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