On the issues…

There is no easy way to summarize the issues that need to be addressed by the majority party, the Republicans, without offending some constituency or interest group.

TAXES

First and foremost, has anyone noticed that local property taxes have been going up? This isn’t necessarily because the cost of government has gone up, but rather a result of the unfunded mandates that are steadily streaming out of Atlanta.

Responsible legislators should address these unfunded mandates just like Republicans at the federal level did several years ago. With that said, tax reform has got to be on the top of the list, but do not push the burden of paying for government on the backs of property owners, there taxes are high enough already.

With that said, property tax reform should be on the table as part of any tax reform dialogue. Some have suggested a statewide floating homestead exemption, similar to that in Chatham County. That assumes a “one size fits all� approach that does not necessarily hold true and would unfairly limit those counties facing double digit growth in addressing the infrastructure needs associated with rapid growth.

EDUCATION

Education must be the cornerstone of any successful thriving community. Strengthening public schools should be priority number one for our elected officials. Charter schools play a critical role in this without jeopardizing local public schools. “School Choice� or “Vouchers� as they were once called is an idea that doesn’t hold water. Just because you “shift� a student to another school, doesn’t mean you’re doing anything to improve the way that particular child learns.

For too long, we’ve approached education in a tired old “one size fits all� approach. We must realize that some students learn in different ways. For our schools to become institutions of learning excellence, we must give schools and the teachers that interact with students the flexibility to address the needs of their students.

Some of the solutions to education are common sense, at least in my view. For starters, smaller classrooms are a must. We must make that a priority, especially in the primary years of education. Some problems in learning never get noticed because underperforming students get lost in the crowd of an overcrowded classroom.

As well, teachers need to be able to teach – and focus on students – NOT administrative paperwork. The investment in teacher’s aides allows teachers to delegate this administrative work, while they are able to focus on the needs of their students.

In addition, we need to measure the results of all the funds going to education. We should be looking at what works and what doesn’t. If certain programs aren’t working, we need to end them and focus on expanding the programs that are working. This would seem to be common sense.

Furthermore, we need not wait for years to address schools with real problems. If a school shows no progress or further decline over a three year period, new leadership should be brought in to evaluate that school. The state should be a partner and helping hand to local schools in improving and addressing the needs of underperforming schools. We should NOT have to wait year after year to realize there is a significant problem in a particular school.

And finally, we need to create technical schools in partnership with our technical colleges. We must offer hope and opportunity to those students who do not plan to pursue a college education. The best way that we can do this is to partner up with our existing excellent network of technical colleges.

GOVERNMENT REFORM

There is something wrong with a state that has no idea how many vehicles it has or how many employees have credit cards. No business owner could succeed with this strategy. Government is not supposed to be an employment agency, and thus, from top to bottom, or better yet, from bottom to top, state government on ever level should undergo a performance evaluation.

We need to look at the goal of government and work backwards at the best way to deliver those services. Those employees that work for the state should be as motivated and excited about their job as the best employees in the private sector.

It is time to sell some government buildings that aren’t meeting their best use. Some state agencies need to be shut down, for their purpose has long been gone.

And most importantly, it’s time for state agencies to leave Atlanta. There is no reason that the Secretary of State’s office couldn’t operate out of Savannah or Augusta. As well, wouldn’t it make more sense to move the Agriculture Commissioner to Albany? Or how about moving the Insurance Commissioner’s office to Macon or Brunswick? Is there anything that the Superintendent of Education can’t do from Columbus, GA? Pack up these offices, sell the buildings and relocate the jobs and function to some of Georgia’s other cities.

Governor Perdue promised this in 2002 and many of us are still waiting…

Finally, as a state, we need to once and for all put the nail in the coffin on partisan gerrymandering. Georgia needs to set the way and move toward a non-partisan commission style system for redistricting.

With more competitive legislative seats, both on the state and federal level, will likely lead to more citizen interest and involvement and some of the crazy things that happen in our state wouldn’t make it in a system with greater citizen scrutiny.

11 comments

  1. Bill Simon says:

    Tell me how moving the SOS, or the Ag Commissioner, or the Insurance Commissioner, out of Atlanta helps SAVE: 1) money for the state government, and, 2) helps serve the majority of Georgians?

  2. Maverick says:

    Ask Gary Black how many farmers in the rural areas of Georgia wish the Ag office was local, so they could be more involved. Better service, more local service, equals, in this case, lower costs. The heart of Georgia isn’t inside the donut.

  3. Bull Moose says:

    Moving offices outside of Atlanta will help a lot of things — even if just on the margins, it is still helpful – 1) reduce traffic 2) allows the state to sell off high valued commercial real estate in Atlanta 3) allows employees to relocate to cities where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is higher 4) provides an economic boost to other parts of the state 5) It was one of the campaign promises that Sonny Perdue made in 2002 and he needs to keep it!

    Maverick — for once — we agree! State agencies don’t need to be in Atlanta to be effective.

    It’s time to pack up and get the agencies out of the perimeter — perhaps being able to live in flourishing communities will improve government employee moral and thus translate into better services!

  4. Bill Simon says:

    I disagree completely. Apparently, neither Bull nor Maverick have ever spent time incorporating a business. What a pain in the rear-end it would be for people from the 770-, 404-, and 678- area codes (of which there are several million people) to have to dial long distance to talk to Corporations about their registration and filing needs.

    And, what a cost it would have to be to PAY for all of those officials to live on per diems in Atlanta during the Session and commute back and forth between Augusta, Macon, or Valdosta and Atlanta.

    If you wish to move the Ag Commissioner, fine. But, there will still have to be a satellite office of sorts in the state capital city.

    It’s amazing, just about every other state in the U.S. has no problem parking their state agencies in the capital cities, but, in Georgia, we come-up with the novel idea of locating them in some quite inconvenient location, away from the only major international airport in the Southeastern United States. Yeah, that’ll work…that idea will only demonstrate to the rest of the country why it is that we are very near the bottom of the bottom in education quality.

    Oh, but, thanks to Zell Miller, we are now the state that pays teachers the highest in all of the Southeast, yet we suck at teaching the kids. Yeah, Boy, howdy, what an accomplishment for Ziggy to be proud of.

    Hey, maybe we should vote on making Macon the capital of Georgia, huh? Or, Dalton?…then we can move all of the state agencies to those cities…I’m sure this idea will be crossing Earl Ehrhart’s mind just as soon as he gets his ever-important bill to rename Sanford Stadium “Dooley Stadium” passed next year…

  5. Chris says:

    I think the _most_ important aspect of where you locate State Agencies, or any business for that matter, is the kind of employees you will attract. I know some good people who work for the state who would up and quit if their job was moved OTP.

    Finally nothing says you have to have entire agencies in one place. I work for a company that pretty sucessfully has groups on all four sides of the country.

    The State AG should have offices all over the state. Don’t fall into the same mistake the USDA has done (more employeess than farmers). But there is no reason not to have offices in 5 or 6 cities evenly spread around the state.

  6. Chris says:

    Bull,

    This post seems to imply things are getting worse in GA. Having lived in the north east, I’m quite pleased with the Georgian economic climate. The empirical evidence is in our employment numbers, population growth compared to other states in the union, and the number of small business starting up here.

    Point is thing can be better, but the sky is not falling.

  7. albert says:

    “”””””””””Finally, as a state, we need to once and for all put the nail in the coffin on partisan gerrymandering. Georgia needs to set the way and move toward a non-partisan commission style system for redistricting.””””””””

    This is done, simply waiting on the courts approval. I think anyone will agree with the new district maps. They keep counties together.

    The maps are available if you call the Party Headquarters. There is a nominal fee for them.

  8. Bull Moose says:

    Chris — never said the sky is falling, state is in great shape!
    Albert — yeah, this time redistricting is OK — just OK — but what about next time? And the time after that? Let’s end it once and for all.

  9. albert says:

    Bull Moose,,, this is a clear case of hoof in mouth disease. I rushed through the post… I stand corrected, and he is correct.

  10. Demonbeck says:

    Moving the State Capitol to Macon would be fine with me. Of course, Savannah would be even better! It would be more accessible for all Georgians in a more central location…

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