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POSTED: February 16, 2009 10:16 a.m.
As your elected state representative, it’s my duty to be honest and truthful to the people I represent.  Today, I want to explain and clarify the current economic situation in Georgia.
Like the majority of states across our nation, Georgia is experiencing an economic crisis and I want to forewarn the people in my district that there is no easy solution and we may have to take drastic steps to balance the budget, including the difficult task of deciding what cuts will be made.  
A balanced budget means that the amount of money spent during the fiscal year cannot exceed the amount of money collected.  This makes the budget process very complex, but ensures that Georgia does not operate with a deficit.  Budget cuts of 10 percent or more have already been enforced and additional cuts are expected.  The state revenue for January this year dropped more than 14 percent, a decline of around $260 million compared to January of last year.  But it’s evident that further budget cuts will have to be made.  The state is now looking at close to $3 billion in cuts which will undoubtedly affect everyone in our state.  
This week, several important pieces of legislation were voted on in the House.  HR1 failed to obtain a constitutional majority by a vote of 105-67.  This resolution would have allowed the citizens to vote on limiting the property tax reassessment caps on residential and commercial property.  The vote failed mainly because of the Democrats who voted against it, but it will be up for reconsideration. Most legislators realize that it’s important to have greater accountability of taxing authorities and transparency for the citizens in Georgia, so when this legislation comes up again, it’s my hope it will pass.  
Another bill relating to property tax reform, HB 233, passed the House on Friday by a vote of 110-63.  This bill creates a two-year moratorium on property reassessment increases and requires that each parcel of property be reassessed at least once during that time. The property reassessment can be decreased during this time, but not increased.  Legislators are working together on this in an effort to keep property taxes down and make sure that reassessments are fair.   
As the economy worsens, unfortunately crime in Georgia is increasing.  HB 140 relates to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and would create a state-wide blue alert system to increase the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously injure local, state, or federal law enforcement officers.  This bill is in the House Rules Committee and if passed would ensure the protection of our officers and would make certain that violent criminals are apprehended.   
This past week in the House was one of serious scrutiny as we carefully consider the best avenues for balancing our budget. Just as every family in Georgia is facing tough decisions about paying bills with less income, as legislators we must be responsible and methodical in our approach to making decisions regarding our state. My responsibility to you is my concern, and I will keep you informed as the legislative session proceeds. Every legislator is accountable to the people he or she represents and I welcome your comments and input.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov  

Stephens, R-Savannah, represents House District 164, which includes the Fleming area of Liberty County.
 

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