The Augusta Chronicle on the Lt. Governor's picks for a new technology innovation task force:

This month, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced 12 Georgia leaders who have agreed to serve on his new Georgia Innovates Taskforce. Its members have been asked to “help accelerate his vision of making Georgia the Technology Capital of the East Coast.”

The panel’s four subcommittees have been charged with exploring public innovation; education and training; entrepreneurship and start-ups; and rural initiatives. All will connect to the research, development and practical application of technology in the state.

It’s a forward-thinking idea worthy of a Georgia Tech graduate (class of ’97). Advancing Georgia toward the nation’s technology forefront was one of the planks in Duncan’s winning campaign platform — deservedly so. State leaders have embraced the fact that If Georgia intends on maintaining and improving its economic strength, technology is a vital area in which the state shouldn’t fall behind.

The panel is brimming with leaders we respect — including former U.S. Senator, Johnny Isakson; former Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson; and Paul Bowers, Georgia Power’s chairman, president and CEO. Every pick for Duncan’s group certainly deserves to be there.

Only three of the 12 are from outside the metro Atlanta area. Where are the Augustans? Between Augusta University and the Georgia Cyber Center downtown, our area is brimming with leaders and experts with plenty to contribute to a committee like this.

But it’s for the best. Augusta’s experts likely don’t have time to devote to such a committee because they’re so busy helping establish dominance in the field of cybersecurity.

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The Brunswick News on an expert's analysis that the local economy is trending upward:

When Don Mathews talks about our local economy, the professor in College of Coastal Georgia’s School of Business and Public Management doesn’t mince his words. If we’re going well, he’s going to say as much. And if there are ways the area can improve and use it’s assets better, he’s going to say that too.

It is one of the reasons why so many look forward to his annual speech at the Georgia Economic Outlook luncheon. So when he says he is “bullish” on our region’s economic prospects at the luncheon, it makes us take notice.

The economy of the Golden Isles has definitely been trending up over the last year or so. The unemployment rate for the area sits at a record low of 2.7 percent. Mathews called that “truly extraordinary” in his speech on Jan. 16.

But Mathews also said something that our local leaders and business community should also keep in mind this year.

“We’re not the only local economy doing well, which makes it difficult to attract workers,” Mathews said. “Each county is growing.”

While are unemployment rates are low, there is still a need for skilled workers in our area. Local business leaders have lamented that problem. The good news is that educators, business leaders and other stakeholders have come together to improve workforce development in our area.

That reason is why it is important to remember we are not the only local area growing. There are opportunities in neighboring regions that are also doing well. That means more competition for workers.

We need to continue to work to make our area appealing not only to potential businesses, but to the people that would work there. We also need that appeal to help retain graduating students who are entering the workforce local instead of venturing off to another part of the state or country to pursue their dreams.

Achieving all of those goals will require cooperation. Fortunately, we have seen stakeholders come together for a variety of reasons the last couple of years for everything from improving downtown Brunswick to draw more people to working to bring a TV show to Brunswick.

Our area is on the rise, and our economy is trending upward. Let’s not rest on our laurels, though. We will have to keep working to make sure it stays that way.

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The Savannah Morning News on weighing tax breaks while balancing the state budget:

Every Georgian welcomes a tax break.

Every Georgia lawmaker wants to extend one. Or two. Or half a dozen.

The desire to lower the tax burdens on individuals and to introduce new tax incentives as a means to spur economic development threatens to create a budget quagmire for the Georgia General Assembly this session.

Gov. Brian Kemp provided legislators with guardrails when he unveiled his proposed Fiscal 2021 budget on Jan. 15. The confines will be tight, as the state’s revenue trends downward.

Yet we can expect our elected officials to employ a shoehorn rather than a scalpel — at least initially.

Foremost among the favored tax changes is an individual state income tax cut of 0.25%, which will cost the treasury approximately $500 million. Another income tax-related item on lawmaker wish lists is an exemption for military retirement earnings, legislation championed by several members of the Savannah-area delegation.

On the sales tax side, a number of legislators want to eliminate the tampon tax, making feminine hygiene products exempt.

Then there is the portfolio of economic development incentives. The Georgia Film Tax Credits garner the headlines, but dozens of other breaks meant to attract new industry or spur expansion of existing businesses will be floated and discussed.

Among those is a package of tax credits for economic development epicenters, including the Savannah Technology Logistics Corridor.

All existing and new proposals, including the film credits, will be heavily scrutinized in a tight budget environment.

BROAD PERSPECTIVE NEEDED

Come the 2020 session’s close, the tax environment will reflect the prism through which legislators viewed the proposed cuts and breaks.

Hopefully, all decisions will be grounded in a desire to improve the quality of life for Georgians.

An income tax cut that puts $50 annually back in the pocket of the average citizen is worthless if it handcuffs state agencies and harms their effectiveness.

Meanwhile, tax exemptions and credits that lead to the emergence of new industry and result in otherwise unattainable economic windfalls are invaluable. Conversely, those breaks that are overly narrow or will have little downstream impact should be abandoned. A sales tax exemption on a product that doesn’t contribute to increased economic activity is a waste.

This is an election year, and every lawmaker wants wins for his or her district or to boost his or her image with core constituencies.

A tight budget demands stress tests on cuts and breaks.

EXPAND THE STATE TAX COFFERS

Legislators can do their part to boost revenues, as well.

Senate and House leaders are already working on legislation to close a loophole in the ecommerce sales tax that denies the state an estimated $150 million a year. With analysts saying overall collections are running $300 million behind budget, collecting those taxes will narrow the gap.

Lawmakers can also consider tweaking measures and proposals.

Lowering the income tax a quarter of a percent while mandating the new rate as a flat tax would minimize the impact. Of course that would have ramifications for other popular tax breaks, such as the Georgia 529 College Savings Plan Credit, the Rural Hospital Tax Credit and the Georgia Qualified Education Expense Credit.

Another modification worthy of discussion involves the film credits. The breaks have been in place since 2008 and have made Georgia the second largest film and TV production destination in the world.

The industry is firmly committed in Georgia, putting the state in a position to make adjustments. However, legislators must tread carefully and avoid making a change that drives away business.

Tax answers are out there. Legislators need to seek them out.