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Legislative priorities fulfilled

POSTED: April 8, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Now that the gavel has fallen on the 2009 legislative session, Georgians will soon begin to see the product of the past 40 legislative days. 

  

They will see jobs being created, homes being sold, drivers moving easily on Georgia’s roadways and children receiving a better education.  The focus of this session was on steering Georgia through the recession and laying the groundwork for its economic revitalization.  To do this, we are using tools like housing, transportation, tax relief, and education. I am confident that the measures we passed this session will be beneficial toward these ends. 

  

The decline in the national housing market opened the wound for an economic recession, and we must staunch the flow of foreclosures and faulty loans before the economy can turn around.

  

The legislature successfully put a bottom on the spiraling housing market by passing a $1,800 home buying tax credit. Available for only six months, this one-time credit is true incentive for buyers to return to the housing market. These are the people who are going to take the first step to bringing us out of this recession, and they deserve some encouragement for putting their money back in the market. The Senate and House reached final agreement Friday on House Bill 261, which now awaits the governor’s signature before it becomes law.    

  

Building on the tax credit’s jump start to the housing market, the legislature is also reforming Georgia’s transportation governance to make Georgia more economically viable.  Under Senate Bill 200, a planning director will be appointed by the governor to develop and carry out the Department of Transportation’s statewide plans, approved by the governor and DOT board.  The legislature will now have greater control over which projects get funded, how the budget is approved, and in doling out funds for local projects.  With a streamlined transportation governance plan in place, we can move Georgia forward to developing concrete funding solutions next session and get moving toward real improvements in our transportation system. 

  

Coupled with a working and streamlined transportation system, the Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success Act of 2009 (JOBS Act) will put Georgia on the right path toward economic recovery.  By investing in hard-working people and free-market solutions, consumers and investors will have greater confidence in the economic environment, generating spending, investing and job creation. 

  

The need for job creation cannot be overstated. Over 400,000 Georgians are without jobs and don’t know how they’re going to pay their mortgage or feed their family. House Bill 481 and 482 are designed to get government out of the way to give people the chance to put their money back into the economy, on their own terms. Washington’s solution is to take taxpayers’ money and appropriate those funds how it sees fit. Georgia state lawmakers prefer to put control back in the hands of the people and let them choose how to spend their money. The JOBS Act includes a new business filing fee holiday, a $500 credit toward the unemployment insurance tax for each eligible employee hired, a $2,400 income tax credit for each eligible employee hired, and the elimination of the sales tax deposit. The focus on protecting small business will be key to bringing Georgia through the current recession  

  

Improving the existing infrastructure of our state means nothing if we do not invest in its future. The success of our state and nation lies entirely with our children, and investing in their future is essential.

  

This was a top priority for the Senate this session. The legislature protected teachers’ salaries and found ways to improve and streamline the education system. Students who are ahead of the curve must no longer be held back thanks to the Move on When Ready Act (HB 149), which allows high school juniors and seniors to finish their high school diploma requirements while attending a college or university full-time.

  

Public school systems will have greater flexibility to meet the required 180 days of the school year under House Bill 193, which would allow schools to extend the school day to cut down on the number of days the school is in session, saving fuel and energy costs. Finally, math and science teachers could see additional compensation with House Bill 280, which increases the state salary schedule for a secondary school teacher who is certified by the Professional Standards Commission in math or science. We need to fill plenty of these essential teaching positions, as Georgia has a 14.3 percent shortage of math and science teachers. 

  

In addition to passing common sense legislation that benefits our state as a whole, the legislature fulfilled its sole obligation on Day 40 and passed a balanced spending plan for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.  The Senate and House agreed on a $18.6 billion budget, which protects funding for education and Medicaid.  The budget restores over $29 million for school nurses and covers the $140 million deficit faced by Medicaid in FY10. It also has cut department budgets and unfilled positions, moves that will continue to save taxpayers money in the long term as well.  Our economy’s development will also get a much-needed boost from $1.6 million for tourism and marketing.     

  

My promise to the citizens of the 51st District has always been to bring “conservative, common sense, market-based solutions to the issues and opportunities facing the 51st District and all of Georgia.”  I believe our state is one that values hard work, innovation and opportunity. I also believe Georgia is on its way to economic recovery and re-found prosperity.

  

The legislation and budget initiatives of this session will enable the recovery and will continue to represent that commitment. 

  

Sen. Chip Pearson can be reached at (404) 656-9921 or via e-mail at chip.pearson@senate.ga.gov.

 

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