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Legislators hear economic woes
State Reps. Ron Stephens, left, of Savannah and Al Williams of Midway, both of whom represent parts of Liberty County, hosted an economic town hall meeting Thursday. - photo by Photo by Joe Parker, Jr.

Rep. Al Williams of Midway and fellow Rep. Ron Stephens who also represents part of Liberty County, explained some factors of the state's current economic crisis Thursday and listened to citizens' concerns.
The immediate picture was not very cheerful.
"It does not look good," Williams said.
He explained that Gov. Sonny Perdue had told state departments to prepare for budget cutbacks of six, eight and 10 percent.
"We're going to go to 10," Williams predicted.
Both men had suggestions they thought might improve the state's financial situation, at least some.
Deferring to the pharmacist who mostly represents West Chatham, Williams allowed Stephens to present his plan first.
Williams said there were some state services that were redundant, and cited separate state insurance plans for different groups such as the state Board of Regents and other state employees.
"We can no longer afford that duplication of services," he said.
Both members of the General Assembly agreed that salaries of some high-paid state employees should be looked at. "There is some fat that can be cut," Williams said, "but not much. We will soon be cutting into services that people need."
Stephens said he had proposed a cigarette tax previously that had generated much controversy and opposition, and been defeated.
"But I'll do it again," he said.
He pointed out that society in one way or another bears the burden of treating the health consequences of smoking.
Casino gambling was the contribution of Williams, who pointed to the initial "anti-gambling" stance with which the HOPE lottery to fund education had been greeted. "You can't find anyone who opposes it now," he said.
County Commissioners John McIver and Connie Thrift were among those expressing concern for growth, transportation, education, elder care and other issues.
Assistant School Superintendent Jason Rogers said cuts in state funding could be passed on to the taxpayers, but asked the legislators for local flexibility in trimming school spending.
On a positive note, Williams assured the group of about 30 that local banks were solid and liquid, and the coastal area's gas supply comes from tanker ships docking at the ports. Pipeline-supplied gas has been in shorter supply.

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