Expect transportation, education and the state budget to be hot issues in the Georgia General Assembly session that begins in January.
That’s what Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, told members of the Hinesville Rotary Club on Tuesday.
“What happens in next year’s session? Everybody will be running for cover, pointing fingers at what happened to T-SPLOST; some folks that supported it will have a sudden case of amnesia and declare they didn’t,” he said. “And some people that had nothing to do with it will declare they defeated it.”
Williams, who supported the tax measure, called the T-SPLOST failure an “indictment of political leadership” that showed many voters have lost confidence in their representatives.
But the need for transportation funding remains a priority for state leaders.
“Credible sources” indicate that the next step may be to break the state into even smaller regional groups that could refine their project lists and enact smaller-scale tax referenda similar to local option sales tax, SPLOST and E-SPLOST, Williams said.
Further state budget cuts, which will have a trickle-down effect on higher-education funding, also are critical.
Last week, Gov. Nathan Deal’s office told department heads to come up with an additional $553 million in reductions through June 2014, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Aug. 3.
The bulk of those cuts will come from the University System of Georgia and Department of Community Health.
“The problem is that when HOPE came about, folks decided that ‘Oh goody, let’s take some money out of the university system and use it for something else because HOPE will cover it.’ And the only thing universities had to do then was raise tuition to try and keep up,” Williams said. “You’ve met the ceiling; you just can’t raise it anymore.”
Deal said that K-12 funding will not be further cut.
But cuts will have implications on other services, and Williams reminded the audience that governance comes with a cost.
“We have an electorate now — all of us included — that wants the gold standard, but wants to pay almost nothing,” he said. “We want good police protection; we want the firemen to call and come when the house is on fire; we want the roads paved in the county; we want things to be done. There’s a cost, and so many of us don’t think there should be any cost to goverment. It’s not possible.”