Trade center officials say they believe they can preserve a deal with developer John. Q. Hammons to build a hotel at the facility. But they say they don’t know what impact Gov. Sonny Perdue’s veto of a bill that would provide tax credits for the project will have on Hammons’ plans.

“We need to go back to the folks at Hammons and say ‘This is what happened. Where do we stand? What do we need to do?’” said Charlie Bethel, chairman of the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center Authority and a member of the Dalton City Council.

On Wednesday, Perdue vetoed House Bill 451, which would have provided sales tax refunds for up to 10 years for companies creating “tourism attractions,” including “commercial lodging facilities ... located on recreational property leased from a county, a municipal corporation, the state or the federal government.”

The bill passed the state House of Representatives and the state Senate without any no votes.

“From what I gather, it was a surprise to the economic development community. We did not anticipate that,” Bethel said of the veto.

Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said Perdue told lawmakers that tax credit bills should only address one issue, and House Bill 451 also provided tax credits for film production facilities.

“His position was you’ve got two separate issues in the same bill and tax bills ought to be unique, not combining issues,” Dickson said.

He said Perdue vetoed three other bills on the same basis.

“Another one of those (vetoed bills) that will affect local business and one that folks here had been anxious to see was House Bill 148,” Dickson said.

That bill would have created sales tax exemptions for materials used to build or operate an aquarium. That bill would have also created tax exemptions for natural gas, fuel oil and other energy used by manufacturers.

Dickson said all of those vetoed bills enjoyed strong support in the General Assembly, and he expects to see the matters they addressed taken up again next year in separate pieces of legislation.

Trade center executive director Rick Tanner said if that is the case, Perdue’s veto should not affect the hotel deal.

“We’ve been talking to Hammons over the last week, and they likely would not be able to break ground before next spring anyway. If he has a strong assurance that the bill will pass and the governor will sign it, I think his plans shouldn’t be affected,” Tanner said.

The trade center authority signed a letter of intent with Hammons earlier this month to develop a 220- to 240-room Embassy Suites hotel. Part of that letter included the authority’s promise to support the passage of House Bill 451 and “ensure that this project is approved under the provisions of HB 451.”

Bethel noted the trade center had been talking with Hammons about a hotel long before HB 451 was introduced in the General Assembly earlier this year.

“But this was certainly a piece of the puzzle we put together, and we need to see where this leaves us,” he said.

Hammons did not immediately return a telephone message at his office Thursday afternoon.

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