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Budget, tax work now dominate session

The people's business

POSTED: April 3, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The General Assembly is approaching the final stretch of the 2008 session.
I am very proud of our accomplishments this session on important and pressing issues facing our state.
I judge our session not by the number of bills we pass, but by the quality of the legislation.  If the only thing we did was pass a balanced budget and went home, I would rate that as a successful session.
Early on in the session we passed important pieces of legislation to address Georgia's water and transportation needs.  These are complex issues that demanded immediate attention and I am proud that the Senate was able pass good legislation on these issues early on.  
The Senate passed over 30 pieces of legislation on Crossover Day last week and they are now on their way to the House for consideration.  Among the legislation was Senate Resolution 196, which will provide scholarships for children of Georgia military personnel killed or disabled as a result of a combat wound.
We also passed a bill affirming that if a school system loses accreditation, a special election may be held to elect a new school board (SB 535).  If this bill is signed into law, it will ensure that students are not left without options for continuing their education.  This will provide more local control and accountability for education.
The Senate also passed the Protecting Georgia's Investment Act, which requires boards administering public retirement funds to identify all companies doing investments in Iran.  By prohibiting Georgia retirement plans from investing in foreign publicly traded companies that operate in Iran, we can protect state pension funds.  Iran is known to support terrorism and has even supplied terrorists in Iraq with weapons to use against our military.  Conducting business in this country serves only to economically support their government and allows Iran to continue to pursue terrorist actions.
Looking ahead, the legislature has modified its schedule to allow for budget revisions after the Governor's announcement last week that revenue estimates for both the FY08 amended budget and FY09 budget must be reduced.  Such adjustments must be made due to the slowing growth of the state's revenue.  Gov. Perdue met with House and Senate leadership to discuss his revised budget recommendations.  For the amended budget, revenue will be reduced an estimated $65 million from its original proposal.  The reductions recommended include $40 million, originally allocated for one-time equipment and technology infrastructure upgrades, and $25 million in funding for school buses.   For FY09, the revenue will be reduced by an estimated $245 million.  The equivalent reduction in spending recommended by Gov. Perdue will be derived from programs in state agencies.
We can't address the budget without also examining the tax reform measures that have been circulating this session.  The Senate took the first steps in the tax reform debate this year by passing three different constitutional amendments to cut property taxes.  With broad bipartisan support, the Senate voted to send both measures to the House.  In a surprising development on Crossover Day, the House took the tax reform debate even further by passing HR 1246.  You will remember that over the summer House Speaker Glenn Richardson introduced his "GREAT Plan." That plan called for the elimination of all ad valorem taxes in Georgia on both homes and cars.  The plan has evolved into what passed the House last week.  This legislation would provide an estimated $700 million in tax relief for Georgia citizens.
As a fiscal conservative and Republican, I believe that cutting taxes and government spending is the key to a strong economy.  I believe that true economic recovery comes from the people, not government.
I commend the House on their proposal on the car tax and the hard work they have put into this issue.  We cannot leave a $650 million hole in the budget when the economy is going south.  I believe we will be able to take a balanced approach to tax relief that will have support from both houses.
The Senate will take up this matter with serious deliberation to create a product that will provide immediate and targeted tax relief that focuses on stimulating the economy.
As always, please contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area.

Williams represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties.  He can be reached at (404) 656-0089 or by email at tommie@tommiewilliams.com.
 

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