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Do nothing formula for victory
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The buzz is getting louder. Former Gov. Roy Barnes is said to be thinking of running again.
Remember when Barnes ran for re-election for governor in 2002? From the outside, he looked like an easy winner. Sonny Perdue’s campaign folks knew better. During his first and perhaps only term, Barnes made several fatal political mistakes, all under the heading of too much rocking the boat. Georgians don’t care much for boat rockers, especially in good times.
Peach Staters don’t want massive public works projects to improve transportation, and they certainly don’t want public school teachers held accountable for their job performance.
Sonny promised to delete from the state agenda both transportation and teacher accountability. The voters liked that. They tossed out Roy and brought in Sonny. To show their appreciation for letting grand reforms slide, Georgians re-elected Sonny to a second term in 2006.
If Barnes runs, you have to wonder if he will follow the Perdue formula of doing nearly nothing, even in harsh economic times.
The Perdue formula, of course, is not Sonny’s own creation. Gov. Joe Frank Harris successfully employed the non-boat-rocking method of government in the 1980s. Perdue has said repeatedly that he is not into engaging signature issues or implementing big ideas. He simply wants his legacy to be a well-managed state.
This approach may be a wonderful way to maintain popularity, but it is a lousy method for running a state. Maybe Perdue thought his second term was a reward for his four-year turn as Miss Congeniality.
Failure to take on big problems — transportation, education, Medicaid — in good times means those issues are magnified many times over when times turn really bad, as they have now done in parts of Georgia.
Transportation has morphed into a kind of sci-fi nightmare in which we find a once-prosperous Georgia slowly but surely choking to death on exhaust fumes. It is estimated that $100 billion will be required over the next 20 years to do what needs to be done to our transportation network. Where’s the money coming from?
The cost and demand for Medicaid services have spiraled out of sight. Perdue mostly stood back and watched as Medicaid all but collapsed and some of our esteemed congressmen voted no on extending health insurance to poverty-stricken children.
Perdue whacked the heck out of education in a stated attempt to hold down taxes. Property taxes shot up anyway. Now he is taking away the state property tax relief provided by his predecessor.
When he came into office, Perdue tossed out a mega-communications contract initiated by Barnes to bring Georgia into the 21st century. Six years later, Perdue has split the contract into two pieces, claiming it will save millions. Question: Why didn’t he try such a split six years ago?
To say Perdue has done little is not quite fair. In fact, here are some actions that come quickly to mind:
• Pushed the use of public funds to finance faith-based initiatives.
• Spearheaded a drive to ban gay marriages, which were already illegal in Georgia.
• Promoted a Go Fish program during a drought to aid Georgia bass fisherfolk and others engaged in this praiseworthy pastime.
• Participated in foreign trade missions. He went to Spain when Georgia was in the throes of a gasoline-shortage crisis and took off for China during the contentious final week of the last legislative session.
I have no idea whether Roy Barnes or David Poythress or Jim Marshall will finally run for governor, once Perdue’s tenure plays out. Whoever runs might try Sonny’s be-still formula for a sure victory and a guaranteed encore. Or they might settle for a bumpier campaign and time in office with an agenda for trying to shore up parts of our state that have been badly neglected for far too long.
P.S: Of course, Perdue could surprise everyone and come up with a gigantic economic stimulus package to help Georgia dig out of the doldrums. Just like they do in Washington, he would pay for it with borrowed money. However, history might judge him as a higher achiever.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail:, or Web address:
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