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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ISAKSON. Madam President, before he leaves the floor, I would like to thank the distinguished majority whip for his leadership. I also want to thank Senator Enzi, Senator Alexander, and the Presiding Officer for their leadership on what is an important issue to my State, and really to every State.

The marketplace fairness bill is a good idea whose time has finally come. We have been waiting 20 years since the court decision to give direction to our States so they can collect the retail sales tax upon which many of them finance most--if not all in some cases--of their governmental operations.

This is not a new tax. It is not a different tax. It is not a tax we are applying to anybody. It is a mechanism for the collection of a tax that has been owed for over 20 years by people making retail purchases in our States from people who sell out of State.

I commend the leadership on the legislation, the way it is drawn. I hope everybody will bring their amendments to the floor, if they have any. I don't know that there is any need for them. I hope we can send a clear message to the House and to our States that we are prepared to let our local governments and our State governments collect the tax that is owed to them and has been owed to them.

The Governor of my State, Nathan Deal, last year led a major tax reform package that passed with only one dissenting vote in our legislature. It reformed taxes on utilities for manufacturing to attract businesses to our State. It reformed our income tax code and it reformed a lot of our taxes, but it also passed legislation consistent with the Marketplace Fairness Act so we can finally collect a tax that has been owed for a long time in our State.

As a real estate guy, as someone who used to lease retail space in shopping centers and on corners in the cities and counties in our State, I know what it has meant to retailers. What has happened is, in many cases, they become showrooms and servicing agents for an offsite seller. Customers in our community will go to the retail store, look at the products, go home and go on the Internet, buy the product on the Internet, and if something goes wrong with it, they will go back to the store and try to get it fixed. But the State never gets the sales tax on that sale because it was an Internet sale made by someone offsite.

Secondly, it has put pressure on the rest of the tax system. Think about this. If a local community gets most of its revenue from a local special purpose sales tax and all of a sudden that tax goes down, not because people aren't paying it but because it is not being collected, what happens? The pressure on the ad valorem tax goes up. So the retailer, who is already burdened with losing business because of Internet sales, becomes further burdened because they have more pressure from the ad valorem tax they pay for the space they lease and occupy. So it has had a compounding effect.

Also, we are famous in Washington for what is known as unfunded mandates to local government, whether it is IDEA in education or whatever it might be. It is time we gave our local governments the chance for a mandate to collect a tax that is owed to them.

Lastly, for my State of Georgia, we have a 4-percent sales and use tax that goes to our State. We have special purpose local option sales taxes that are referendum taxes levied by local communities to finance school construction and other opportunities. We have a Metropolitan Rapid Transit Authority in Atlanta which in 1974 was seeded with a referendum that passed a 1-cent tax in Fulton and Dekalb Counties for the financing of the beginning of that subway system. It is not fair to deny those States and those entities the ability to collect a tax that is owed. It is only right, after 20 years of getting direction from the appellate courts as to what to do, that this Senate and this Congress and our country say to our States we are going to give a mandate for States to collect the taxes owed to them. We are going to take the pressure off the local retailers. We are going to level the playing field. We are not adding a tax to anyone; we are adding opportunity to everyone.

I commend Senator Durbin, the Presiding Officer, Senator Alexander, and Senator Enzi for their tireless leadership. I urge all Members of the Senate to do what we did on the motion to proceed and what we did on the amendment on the budget. Let's give an overwhelming ratification of the Marketplace Fairness Act.

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