The candidates running for governor are stressing the importance of job creation to steer the state away from an economic slump.

Tuesday afternoon at Beckler’s Carpet in Dalton, one such hopeful detailed his plan to create jobs by eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing, which he said would amount to $141 million overall and a cut of several million dollars for Whitfield County manufacturers. State Sen. Eric Johnson, a Republican, unveiled the plan on June 2 during a visit to the Tencate production facility in Pendergrass, south of Gainesville.

With the state facing a $2 billion to $2.5 billion deficit in 2011, Johnson believes the tax cut will attract new industry, create jobs and keep existing business in Georgia, helping to make up for the reduction in state revenue.

“I’ve been very careful of promising things that I can’t deliver, and particularly on tax cuts,” Johnson said. “But to the extent that tax cuts help generate jobs and help protect the jobs we have, it’s that important.”

Johnson pitched the plan in The Carpet Capital of the World with a backdrop of carpet rolls — one product of manufacturing — in front of a small crowd that included Dalton Mayor David Pennington and Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson. Georgia is the only state in the Southeast that taxes energy used in manufacturing, and Johnson said that cost is the second highest to businesses, behind labor. He said that puts Georgia at a “competitive disadvantage.”

“We’re not just losing jobs overseas, we’re losing jobs to neighboring states,” Johnson said.

Johnson has also proposed a tax credit for employers that hire new employees and a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature to pass future tax cuts.

Johnson, 56, is an architect who lives in Savannah. He is of one of seven Republican candidates in the July 20 primary. Seven Democrats are in that party’s primary.

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