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.
First and foremost, has anyone noticed that local property taxes have been going up? This isnâ€™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 â€œone size fits allâ€? 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 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. â€œSchool Choiceâ€? or â€œVouchersâ€? as they were once called is an idea that doesnâ€™t hold water. Just because you â€œshiftâ€? a student to another school, doesnâ€™t mean youâ€™re doing anything to improve the way that particular child learns.
For too long, weâ€™ve approached education in a tired old â€œone size fits allâ€? 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 â€“ and focus on students â€“ NOT administrative paperwork. The investment in teacherâ€™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 doesnâ€™t. If certain programs arenâ€™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.
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 arenâ€™t meeting their best use. Some state agencies need to be shut down, for their purpose has long been gone.
And most importantly, itâ€™s time for state agencies to leave Atlanta. There is no reason that the Secretary of Stateâ€™s office couldnâ€™t operate out of Savannah or Augusta. As well, wouldnâ€™t it make more sense to move the Agriculture Commissioner to Albany? Or how about moving the Insurance Commissionerâ€™s office to Macon or Brunswick? Is there anything that the Superintendent of Education canâ€™t do from Columbus, GA? Pack up these offices, sell the buildings and relocate the jobs and function to some of Georgiaâ€™s other cities.
Governor Perdue promised this in 2002 and many of us are still waitingâ€¦
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 wouldnâ€™t make it in a system with greater citizen scrutiny.