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Lucky for us, Georgia isn’t California

POSTED: July 15, 2009 4:00 a.m.

On July 1, California became the first state in the country to issue IOUs instead of being able to pay its bills.

  

They’ve been living “high on the hog” for some time. Now their pigeons are coming home to roost. They have amassed over $42 billion in debt. It was less than half that when Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor. An over bloated state payroll and a spending out of control legislature are a big part of the blame. 

  

Our state payroll has been lean in comparison. During these tough economic times we’re trimming the head count even more. Under Governor Perdue and Speaker Richardson’s leadership we cannot be accused of overspending on boondoggle projects. Our state Constitution forbids us from operating in the red.  

  

There are still some areas, however, where Georgia can improve. We remain the only state in the nation that does not allow its pension funds to invest in venture capital.

  

A report by the Commission for a New Georgia shows that Georgia’s pension investments under-performed 95 percent of the large public funds in the nation over the past 10 years, partially as a result of the lack of diversification into other asset classes. Both the issues of venture capital and under-performing investments will have to be addressed.

  

Another challenge is keeping our best and brightest here in Georgia instead of having them stolen away for more money by already developed high-tech facilities in other parts of the country. Georgia has some great research universities, which produce many patents.

  

Both Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia are in the top 25 of all public universities, and Emory is in the top 25 of private universities.

  

However, we lack the funds needed to put their discoveries into commercial production.

  

Massachusetts, California and North Carolina have spent the money and built facilities to induce many of our brightest and best researchers to move. The “Achilles heel” in our economic development strategy is the lack of capital that forces some of our most innovative, homegrown companies to move out of state.

  

At last week’s House Republican Caucus meeting we addressed these concerns, critiqued the 2009 session, and made suggestions for the 2010 session.

  

We all agreed that dedicated funding for both the trauma and transportation infrastructures is needed. I hope some new ideas are brought forward, because the thought of increasing sales tax doesn’t thrill me at all.

  

The 2009 Legislature deserves credit for restoring cuts in Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals, and avoiding the governor’s proposed tax increase on medical providers.   In an attempt to raise Georgia’s student ranking in math and sciences, we will provide raises and bonuses to teachers that meet or exceed certain student achievement criteria.

  

As Georgia legislators, we look at hundreds of bills during a 40-day legislative session. I believe that Georgians want their legislators to make informed decisions with philosophical integrity, not enter a popularity contest.

  

A lot of my information comes from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, which is beholden only to its unchanging philosophy. Since you elected me in 2000, the Foundation has proven its integrity, credibility and commitment to good public policy rooted in sound research. My ability to understand and digest legislation is supplemented by the information provided by supporting or opposing special interest groups, and most importantly by local constituents. 

  

Your communications to me on issues during the year are more important than you can imagine.

  

Many of you are concerned about taxes, healthcare and the micro management being delivered by our government.

  

In the words of economist Milton Friedman: “Many people want government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.” 

  

Gov. Perdue’s sound public policy leadership is the solid foundation standing between Georgia and the expansion of the federal government.  Sonny Perdue is anything but a “do nothing” governor, as charged by many newspapers.

  

In comparison with many other states and their elected officials, Georgia is doing better than most during these tough times.

  

During the next two weeks, I will be attending the American Legislative Exchange Council in Atlanta and the National Council of State Legislators in Philadelphia.

  

I will report to you on both of these important meetings when I return.  If you have trouble contacting me this month, try calling my assistant at the capitol, Rebecca Hammond: (404) 656-7857.  She has a lot of experience helping solve constituent problems. 

  

Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail hamerson@windstream.net. Or call Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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