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Ga. reps lobby colleagues to give Vogtle lifeline in tax overhaul


WASHINGTON -- Georgia lawmakers are urging House Republicans to include a provision in their tax overhaul that's viewed as critical to the survival of the state's troubled Vogtle nuclear project.

All but two of the state's U.S. House members wrote to the chairman of the chamber's tax-writing committee on Friday urging him to fold language into the upcoming tax overhaul that ensures the operators of the $25 billion project receive roughly $800 million in federal tax credits.

The tweak, which would eliminate a 2020 sunset date on the previously-promised credits, would only benefit Vogtle since it's the sole remaining new nuclear project under construction in the U.S. But Georgia's lawmakers said the change would benefit the entire country since it would be underwriting a first-of-its-kind project.

"Beyond simply benefiting Georgia, this credit is integral to protecting our nation's energy security and independence, ushering in an American nuclear energy renaissance," the group of 12 wrote to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Congressional Republicans are all-in on their quest to overhaul the tax code, which they see as critical to protecting their majorities on Capitol Hill in next year's midterm elections. In addition to slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent, GOP leaders are looking to drastically simplify the revenue code, which means eliminating many of the specific tax breaks that have made it onto the books in recent decades.

The state's lawmakers say the Vogtle aid would come cheap -- about $16 million -- but pay massive dividends to the tune of $2 billion.

The House easily passed standalone legislation back in June that would make the same changes, but the bill has stalled in the Senate as lawmakers have zeroed in on a broader rewrite of the tax code.

The Trump administration doubled down on its commitment to Vogtle last month when it gave initial approval to $3.7 billion in additional loan guarantees to help cover the project's recent cost overruns. That's in addition to the $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees Vogtle previously received.

Vogtle boosters say the loan guarantees and tax credits are critical to the project's survival after its main contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March. Critics say the federal government is propping up an increasingly expensive and untenable project that will cost taxpayers if it fails.

All 10 of the state's House Republicans signed onto the letter, including Rick Allen, whose Augusta-area district is home to the nuclear plant. Democrats Sanford Bishop of Albany and David Scott of Atlanta were also signatories.

House Republicans are expected to unveil the text of their tax overhaul later this week.

Read more: Energy Department offers extra $3.7 billion loan backing for Plant Vogtle


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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.