That’s one possible reason the Peach State’s unemployment rate has stubbornly stayed above the national average, according to a story published today in The Atlantic. Noting that the state was named the best for doing business by Site Selection Magazine last year, the story continues,
[T]hose who follow the state’s economy say the state’s troubling economic figures are directly related to Georgia’s attempts to paint itself as a good state for corporations.
“This is what a state looks like when you have a hands-off, laissez-faire approach to the economy,” said Michael Wald, a former Bureau of Labor Statistics economist in Atlanta. “Georgia is basically a low-wage, low-tax, low-service state, that’s the approach they’ve been taking for a very long time.”
Governor Deal has emphasized time and again that he believes it is the role of government to get out of the way and let the private sector stimulate the economy. Georgia was among the first states to cut back the duration of unemployment benefits available to its residents to 18 weeks from 26. The state has slashed $8.3 billion from public-school funding since 2003 and passed eligibility requirements for a state financial-aid program that caused a dramatic decline in the number of students in technical colleges (some of those requirements have since been rolled back).
The story points out several examples of why the state’s economy may be lagging, focusing on Griffin, located south of Atlanta in Spalding County. Griffin’s unemployment rate is 9% compared to 7.2% statewide.
Among the unemployed in Griffin are people like Richard Joiner, who was laid off from his job in manufacturing, and decided to go to technical school do develop his skills in film production, a rapidly growing industry in Georgia that desperately needs qualified workers. However, his unemployment compensation ran out before he could complete his training, leaving him without a degree and $13,000 in debt.
The story also talks about how tax cuts passed in 2012 to replace the birthday tax on automobiles has caused a shortfall in city budgets, citing challenges in Bainbridge, and Washington, Georgia’s having to lay off its police force.
Georgia can rightly be proud of its record of limited government and fiscal responsibility. But, the state must decide if it wants to make investments in its people and infrastructure in order to grow the economic pie. That’s something lawmakers will need to consider as they contemplate the study committee report that asks for more than a billion dollars in new revenues each year in order to pay for transportation infrastructure.