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Budget the hot topic of first week
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The one thing on everyone’s mind during the first week of the 2009 session was the budget, which will be sure to dominate all business under the Gold Dome this year. 


We heard from Gov. Perdue on his budget proposal during the State of the State address. He emphasized the need to cut spending, while also encouraging investment in Georgia’s future through an aggressive bond program to build needed infrastructure. 


I agree with the governor’s remarks that we need to focus on a long-term perspective as we structure the budget. We must look past the current economic downturn to determine how best to prioritize government spending so that future generations of Georgians can depend on an effective and fiscally responsible government to offer the services they need.  


I am committed to bolstering our services to citizens by concentrating on the most appropriate and essential programs. We need to limit our government to achieve a system that runs smoothly and does not spend taxpayer dollars superfluously.


This will help limit wasteful spending and limit government, which is how I intend to approach every legislative policy this session. It is imperative that we begin to seriously restrict government in cases where local control is more prudent and effective. There is already an effort to put control back in the hands of local school systems by moving towards a performance-based approach.


Encouraging local control in the state’s education system means schools have greater flexibility to meet their individual students’ needs. This will also help prioritize funding for essential educational programs, allowing us to pare down spending over half of the state’s budget in this one area.


On Thursday, we convened the first joint Economic Development Committee meeting of the session. We are committed to doing everything we can to recover Georgia’s economy, and will focus largely on the housing industry. The reason for that is simple: what was last year a decline in one industry has this year spread to the entire economy. The grim statistics from the homebuilders and realtors:


• Between one in eight and one in five jobs in the metro Atlanta area is directly or indirectly related to homebuilding and construction.


• Nearly 200,000 jobs have been lost in this industry in Georgia since the decline started.


• Average statewide declines in home values were 13.4 percent last year


• Almost one quarter of all mortgage principal balances are in excess of the homes value.


• Georgia foreclosures are at an all time high.


These are staggering numbers and another year of home value declines would not only be unprecedented, but could lead to further loss of wealth and economic decline for Georgia homeowners and families.


It is imperative that we do all we can to help this segment of our economy recover as quickly as possible. We know that historically the economy never recovers until housing does, so it’s in everyone’s interest to help that process occur as soon as possible.


We have assigned subcommittees to examine key areas of the housing market, one of which will draft legislation to propose a housing tax incentive. We are determined to move this legislation quickly to provide relief as soon as possible. 


Sen. Chip Pearson can be reached at (404) 656-9921 or via e-mail