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Water, transportation, education to get attention

The people's business

POSTED: February 3, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Continuing to advance his vision for a growing, safer, healthier, and more educated Georgia, Gov. Sonny Perdue unveiled his budget agenda during his State of the State address to the joint session of the General Assembly. Some of the priorities the governor's agenda focused on were water, trauma, transportation, public safety and marketing Georgia to the rest of the world to keep our state on the cutting edge of the global economy.
 
Water
The governor stressed that it was vitally important that the implementation of the Statewide Water Plan, which passed the Senate and House on Friday be fully funded.  His agenda included $120 million to make sure local governments and water authorities have access to low interest loans for water infrastructure and reservoir development, provided through GEFA.
He allocated $40M in cash for the amended fiscal year '08 budget and $30 million in bonds for fiscal year '09 for reservoirs and water system improvements throughout the state. I agree with the governor that long term planning, including investing in reservoirs and water infrastructure is a key component for meeting our water needs down the road.

Transportation
There is no question that our state faces major issues in the area of transportation. These issues did not arrive overnight, and it will take innovative, short and long term planning to address these issues. The governor has requested $50 million to fund the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank. This infrastructure bank will help provide loans and financial assistance to local governments for important infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, transit, rail and airports. The governor is also proposing the highest level of funding for local roads since fiscal year '99.
 
Trauma
Trauma care has received a lot of attention lately. The amended fiscal year '08 budget includes $53 million for the State Trauma Commission to reimburse physicians, EMS providers and trauma hospitals for uncompensated care. The governor also recognizes that accountability and evaluation is needed to ensure funds are used appropriately and managed correctly.
 
Public safety
The governor proposed creating a Regional Officer Trooper Cadet Program, as well as increasing the funding for this force for additional trooper schools to increase the size of the Georgia State Patrol. It is the governor's goal to bring the State Patrol to full strength to protect and serve the citizens of Georgia. Another agenda item is the establishment of an identity theft unit within the GBI to address this growing crime and threat to our state's citizens.
 
Tax relief
There have been many proposals lately in regards to tax relief and reform. Gov. Perdue boldly proposed to amend the state constitution to eliminate state property taxes for the citizens of Georgia.  This plan would save property owners $94 million a year. I believe this is a good idea and is a step in the right direction. This will get the state out of the business of property taxes and place local governments in charge of reassessments, which will bring government closer to the people.
 
Education
The governor called for the continuation of funding for providing $100 classroom gift cards for teachers to help them purchase materials and supplies. He also proposed $65 million for transportation and technology. This will be used for purchasing new school buses and providing additional funding for upgrading technology in all our schools to help prepare our students for the future. It also will provide transparency in schools for parents.
The governor has proposed the parent (VIP) recruiter program for at-risk elementary, middle and high schools. Parents who are involved and engaged in their kids' education are an important element to achievement. The governor is putting $14 million in Fiscal Year 09 for this program.
 
As the Senate majority leader I will, along with the Senate, work with the governor and the House of Representatives to pass a sound, fiscally conservative budget that works for the people, but one that is also a good steward of the people's hard earned tax dollars. Just because we have it, does not mean we have to, or should spend it. Our budget process allows us to evaluate the budget so that we can truly address the needs of our state efficiently. I plan to work hard this session to do just that.

Williams is the Senate majority leader. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes parts of Liberty and Long counties.
 

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