Fight To Watch: Georgia Plans To Alter Electric-Car Tax Credit

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National Drive Electric Week 2014: Atlanta. Photo by Michael Beinenson.

National Drive Electric Week 2014: Atlanta. Photo by Michael Beinenson.

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Over the last two years, the metropolitan Atlanta area has become one of the single best sales regions for the Nissan Leaf electric car.

That's due to a $5,000 Georgia state tax credit for the purchase of a battery-electric vehicle, which can be used to cut state income-tax liability over one, two, or three years.

The electric-car incentive has been under political attack for a couple of years now.

DON'T MISS: Will Georgia's $5,000 Electric-Car Tax Credit Be Axed In 2015? (Jun 2014)

The fate of that tax credit--whether it survives untouched, is altered, or is killed altogether--could have a material effect on electric-car sales in the state and the region, perhaps even nationally.

According to William Cook of the state's Environmental Protection Division, 132 credit certificates were approved in 2012, rising to 1,372 in 2013.

Through September of this year, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4,591 electric-car certificates had been issued.

2014 Nissan Leaf, Bear Mountain, May 2014

2014 Nissan Leaf, Bear Mountain, May 2014

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By the end of this year, according to the newspaper, there will be 18,000 to 20,000 electric cars on state roads--indicating a higher total yet for 2014.

So it's worth watching what happens to the credit during the first months of the next Georgia legislative session.

A bill to end the credit altogether--HB527--had been introduced last March by Representative Chuck Martin.

ALSO SEE: Georgia Advocates Ask Legislature To Keep Electric-Car Tax Benefit (Feb 2014)

Martin told the Atlanta Business Chronicle at the time that while he supported the adoption of electric cars, he didn't feel that goal should be subsidized with taxpayer funds.

The EV Club of the South, meanwhile, had proposed a compromise: phasing out of the credit after a three-year period.

In the event, the bill died on the last day of this year's legislative session after a conference committee was unable to agree on language acceptable to both the state's House and Senate--each of which had amended its provisions.

Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)

Traffic in Atlanta, Georgia during rush hour (via Wikimedia)

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Nonetheless, Georgia political observers concurred that a new effort to kill or modify the tax credit would be launched before the 2015 legislative session.

Martin told the Journal-Constitution that he hopes to engage in discussions over the credit that could produce "revision, reduction, or phased elimination of the credit or just sunset at some future time.”

Political insiders involved with those efforts have suggested to Green Car Reports that negotiations are now underway to modify the credit in a way that would make retaining it politically palatable for Martin and others.

MORE: Will Georgia Kill Its $5,000 Tax Credit For Electric-Car Purchases? (Feb 2014)

Chief among those provisions is likely to be an annual cap on total disbursements under the credit. One insider suggested a possible number of $20 million--theoretically representing 4,000 electric cars.

The credit may also be phased out after 2019.

While participants seem guardedly optimistic that the tax credit can be retained in some form, state politics is always unpredictable--and, to quote Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Representative Martin, meanwhile, did not respond to inquires sent by Green Car Reports on the status of the credit.

Watch this space.

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