Atlanta Falcons fans wait outside to enter the Georgia Dome. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
ATLANTA -- Here's a fact that you probably haven't heard before about the proposed project to replace the Georgia Dome. Put aside the $300 million in hotel/motel tax money proposed to help fund the project.
If it is approved, the project would likely get an additional $25 million sales tax break -- money that would normally go to fund state government.
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The tax break would relieve contractors of paying sales tax on the cost of construction material -- lowering the overall cost of the project. It's not unusual either. When the privately funded Georgia Aquarium was built, its construction material was purchased free of state sales taxes, state officials say. Same thing with the new World of Coca-Cola museum. The tax breaks, granted by the state on a case-by-case basis, are intended for projects "of regional significance." The tax breaks are designed to spur economic development.
State officials declined comment on our report. Officials of Common Cause Georgia hadn't heard about it until we brought it to their attention.
"I'm not aware that it's been part of any public discussion," said former state representative Wyc Orr, a Common Cause Georgia director. "And it should be. It's an example of the sometimes hidden additional costs to the public that are a part of a deal like this."
A spokeswoman for the Georgia World Congress Center Authority says the plan to seek the tax break was disclosed in a term sheet released to the public last week.
It used to be that projects of regional significance had to seek legislative approval for such sales tax breaks. But here's another little known fact: In the last legislative session, lawmakers changed the law. Now tax breaks for projects "of regional significance" are approved by the governor and the Department of Economic Development.
This means lawmakers no longer have to cast a vote on the record saying whether they approve or disapprove of such tax breaks.