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Issues facing state lawmakers

Capitol update

POSTED: January 19, 2009 2:01 p.m.
As the 2009 Legislative Session convenes, we are addressing issues that are being discussed around kitchen tables throughout the state. As Georgians in every corner of our state closely watch their bottom lines during this economic downturn, it will also be a tough session for lawmakers.
Since state tax revenues are lower than projected, we will have to address spending cuts for the last six months of this fiscal year. Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed a large program funded on borrowing, but has not detailed the spending. We are also waiting to see how much President-elect Obama’s stimulus package will affect states. Once these issues are clarified, we will have to determine the most responsible way to proceed.
In regard to taxes, both House and Senate leaders have expressed support for a cap on property taxes. We recognize that any tax relief would be welcomed by citizens, but we must be diligent so that any legislation doesn’t get drowned by dissenting legislators in party-line details.
Roads and transportation will also be a major issue this session. As the more populous cities experience an increase in congestion, and as rural areas desire roads to entice employers, at the same time environmental groups want mass transit. All three interests are being represented as business groups and environmentalists are jointly lobbying for a constitutional amendment that would allow a group of counties to impose a regional sales tax to support transportation. The proposal would have to be passed by voters in 2010, so there is time for us to consider ramifications.
Trauma care is an issue that lawmakers have wrestled with for years and one that will likely be another priority. Because there is a dire need for dedicated funding for a statewide network of facilities to provide advanced trauma care, including specialized equipment, air transportation and physicians, this is cause for concern. Without a solution, trauma centers could be forced to close amid recent operating losses.
The Savannah Port continues to create jobs and bring in revenue, so the harbor deepening that the ports authority hopes to partially fund from the state will likely be approved. The port wants to deepen the harbor from 42 feet to 48 feet to allow for larger vessels. It is likely bonds will be issued to pay for this project. Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 286,476 jobs and contribute $14.9 billion in income, $55.8 billion in revenue and $2.8 billion in state and local taxes.

Stephens, a Republican lives in Savannah. His District 164 covers the Fleming area of Liberty County.
 

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