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Health care reform debate also dominates state budget discussion

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POSTED: August 10, 2009 11:07 a.m.
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Al Williams

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Health care reform took front seat at another town hall meeting this week.
State Reps. Al Williams, D-Midway, and Ron Stephens, R-Garden City, answered questions and listened to comments Thursday evening in the courthouse annex.
“As a taxpayer here in Liberty County, I’m having to foot the bill for, usually, able-bodied individuals… and it cuts like a knife,” Philip Parham said.
“You’re not going to find too many people [who] are fudging the system,” Williams said, mentioning how hard it is to be declared indigent. “It is not nearly as easy as we think.”
About 20 people showed up to hear how the sour economy is affecting local agencies, including those that deal in education, social services, labor and health care.
Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker explained how with more instructional time and shorter planning periods, the time savings will add up to the three furlough days missed over the first semester.
“So we’re dealing with that as we can and in a way where we don’t take away instructional time from students,” Baker said.
Parham wanted to know what is being done concerning drainage problems to Donell Woods stadium.
“We redid that field because of safety issues for our children,” Baker said. “We’re not just doing things for beautification.”
“I mean, what are we doing to get that money back?” Parham said.
Baker alluded a solution that may have to be “in court.”
“We’re not just letting them slap our hand and make a mistake and walk off,” Baker said.
Furloughs aren’t anything new to workers at the Department of Children and Family Services, according to board chairman John Henderson.
Almost all of DFCS staff have taken furloughs since 2008 and now everyone will take it this year.
“That’s not the major impact,” Henderson said. “The major impact to DFCS, as it is to the hospital, as it is to the schools, is the impact on the community.”
But the audience still questioned why it seemed people were not receiving needed help.
Stephens explained DFCS is probably the largest employer in the 10,000-plus people Department of Human Resources.
DHR recently reorganized, creating a separate mental health department, in order to make for more personnel.
“I believe it’s going to place much more focus on DFCS because they’re bogged down on a very large bureaucratic system,” Stephens said of the department created last month.
Gary Varner of the state Labor Department’s Hinesville Career Center opened his presentation by asking the audience to raise their hand if they could hire tomorrow.
“That’s what we need, employers who can hire somebody tomorrow,” Varner said. “A lot of people who are losing jobs didn’t think they would… it’s never quite been this way.”
Still, Georgia’s economy is better compared to the dismal $25 billion deficit California is dealing with.
“I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams being in the condition of some other states,” Stephens said. “Ours is bad but we’re going to make it through it… getting from Point A to Point B is what we’re all about.”
He touched on the success coming to the state because of the film industry.
Georgia went from hosting 10 films to more than 100 this year, according to Stephens.
“And that’s what we need for cities and counties, spending the money in the local economy,” Stephens said.
Williams closed out the session, thanking all in attendance.
“I don’t think we quite hit the bottom yet, though there is some daylight,” Williams said.

 

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