ATLANTA -- The state of Georgia is offering the Atlanta Falcons long-term financial security as long as the National Football League team agrees to call the Georgia World Congress Center complex home.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed legislation this week extending the hotel-motel tax that supports the state-owned Dome through 2050. The tax, which was imposed when the stadium was built in the early 1990s, had been due to expire in 2020.
While the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome is still fewer than two decades old, a wave of new construction has rendered it the fourth oldest in the NFL. Team officials recently expressed their preference for a new open-air stadium for the Falcons on property just north of the Georgia World Congress Center.
The tax bill leaves open that possibility. Under the legislation, the extension of the hotel-motel tax will go through as long as the Falcons either stay at the Dome or move into a "successor facility" at the downtown GWCC complex.
In a flurry of bill signing aimed at beating this week's deadline, the governor also put his name to legislation that will:
- overhaul Georgia's property assessment system. Among other things, the bill requires tax assessors to take into account the effects of foreclosures within the neighborhood when establishing the values of nearby homes for tax purposes.
- sell off a large portion of a state environmental loan fund that helps support local water and sewer projects. The move, strongly opposed by local governments and environmental groups, is aimed at raising about $300 million to help balance the recession-ravaged state budget.
- give a green light to plans to build a 440-acre reservoir to serve several cities in south Fulton County. Environmental advocates complained when a procedural maneuver on the last day of this year's legislative session gave the bill statewide scope instead of limiting it to the south Fulton project.
- modernize Georgia's telecommunications laws by ending large disparities in access charges levied by telecom giants, wireless companies and local phone companies. The measure also clamps new restrictions on a state fund that subsidizes local companies with money that comes primarily from their larger competitors.
(The Atlanta Business Chronicle)