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Governor Sonny Perdue Signs Land Conservation Tax Credit and Litter Prevention Legislation into Law at Earth Day Breakfast

Friday, April 21, 2006  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774

Governor Sonny Perdue Signs Land Conservation Tax Credit and Litter Prevention Legislation into Law at Earth Day Breakfast

ATLANTA – Following his remarks at the EarthShare of Georgia Leadership Breakfast, Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law two of his legislative initiatives aimed at protecting and preserving Georgia’s natural beauty – the Georgia Land Conservation Tax Credit (HB1107) and the Litter Prevention and Abatement Act (HB1320).

“The Land Conservation Tax Credit creates a new incentive for private landowners to participate in Georgia’s land conservation efforts,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “It represents a free market approach to conservation by encouraging individuals and corporations to donate perpetual conservation easements or land to the state, a local government or a qualified charity.”

The land conservation income tax credit will be available to individuals or corporations that donate land or a conservation easement to the state, county, municipality or charitable non-profit organization. The purpose of the tax credit is to increase the financial incentive for a willing landowner to donate land or place a conservation easement on his or her property, which permanently protects the land and keeps it in private ownership. Under this initiative, the state is also able to protect significant amounts of land at a lower cost than by purchasing the land.

If the conservation easement or land donation meets the goals of the Georgia Land Conservation Act, taxpayers will be able to claim a credit against their state income tax liability of 25 percent of the fair market value of the donated property, up to a maximum credit of $250,000 per individual and $500,000 per corporation. The amount of the credit used in any one year may not exceed the amount of state income tax otherwise due. Any unused portion of the credit may be carried forward for five succeeding years.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be responsible for ensuring that donated property qualifies as conservation land as defined in the Georgia Land Conservation Act. Conservation lands are permanently protected lands that are undeveloped and meet one or more of the goals of the Land Conservation Act. Such goals inlcude water quality protection, flood protection, wetlands protection, protection of steep slopes, protection of riparian buffers and areas that provide natural habitat and corridors for native plant and animal species, protection of prime agricultural and forestry lands, protection of cultural and historic sites, heritage corridors, and archeological and historic resources, scenic protection, recreation including boating, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, running, walking and similar outdoor activities and connection of areas contributing to these goals.

“Thanks to the extraordinary leadership, vision and support of Governor Perdue and the state legislature, we are ensuring the protection of natural resources, safeguarding important wildlife habitat and enhancing public recreation areas for future generations,” said Rex Boner, vice president and southeast representative of The Conservation Fund.

One year ago, Governor Perdue signed into law the Georgia Land Conservation Act, his initiative to encourage the long-term conservation and protection of the state's natural, cultural and historic resources. The legislation established a trust fund and a revolving loan fund of $100 million in state, federal and private funding available to local governments and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the purchase of conservation lands. The funds are comprised of $55 million in loans funds, $20 million in redirected bond money and $25 million in private contributions. The Governor's FY07 budget includes an additional $5 million for grants to local government land conservation projects.

HB1107 was sponsored by Representative Jay Roberts in the State House and carried in the Senate by Senator Casey Cagle.

Litter Prevention and Abatement Act

HB1320 is companion legislation to Governor Perdue’s Executive Order, signed June 15, 2005, creating the Litter Abatement and Prevention Team. The team’s goal is a long-term, sustainable strategy for reducing litter through increasing public awareness, personal responsibility and community involvement. HB1320 was sponsored by Representative Lynn Smith and carried in the Senate by Senator Ross Tolleson.

“Georgians should feel a sense of pride in the way we treat our beautiful state,” said Governor Perdue. “Litter, plain and simple, is ugly. It reflects negatively on our communities and affects tourism, economic development, and even our health and safety.”

HB1320 improves the ability of law enforcement to punish litter offenses, clarifies complicated statutes related to litter and stresses personal responsibility as an overarching principle. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Broadening the definition of litter to include all types of materials;
  • Holding the driver responsible for litter leaving a vehicle;
  • Creating a new definition for ‘egregious litter’ – large quantities or particularly nasty litter; and
  • Increasing the accountability for drivers of egregious littering violations

“Keeping our state clean, beautiful and livable is everyone’s responsibility,” said Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty. “By signing of HB1320, Governor Perdue makes it clear that litter has no place on Georgia’s roads, our rolling mountains or along side our streams and rivers.”

Litter is a public health, safety and welfare issue for Georgia citizens. Disease-bearing vermin thrive in litter and tire piles that collect water becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Litter costs millions of dollars for state agencies and local governments to remove litter from interstates, state highways, local roads and public spaces. The Georgia Department of Transportation alone expends over $14 million annually removing over 2 million bags of trash on 5,000 interstate miles and 18,000 state highway miles.

Litter also affects quality of life, economic development and water quality in Georgia. It visually blights state roads and highways, contributes to derelict neighborhoods and is correlated with higher incidents of crime. Litter is washed into and clogs storm water drains and is washed directly into Georgia streams, rivers and lakes negatively impacting water quality and degrading coastal marshes and beaches.