Last week I wrote that "Lumpkin, Dawson and Forsyth counties have joined with White and Union counties to explore bringing high-speed, fiber optics up Ga. 400," and that, "We need high technology companies to provide jobs for those living in our community."
High-speed Internet is one of the absolute necessities to attract new high-tech companies and their higher paying jobs.
On Tuesday of this week, I received word from Governor Perdue that our request has resulted in a grant of $192,000 for the initial study.
The Governor is scheduled to present us the check on Dec. 1 at the Annual Meeting of the OneGeorgia Authority Board being held this year at the North Georgia College and State University Gymnasium at 2 p.m.
The public is invited to attend.
As your State Representative and Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, it is a pleasure to deliver on the start of my promise to bring fiber optic technology to North Georgia.
On Wednesday I attended a Georgia Chamber of Commerce "listening" session in Dawsonville.
Nick Pearson, vice president of the chamber for government affairs, briefed those present on the chamber's perception of what the hot topics would be in the 2009 Session of the Legislature. I was able to contribute my thoughts and am preparing to assist the chamber with their legislative needs.
Given the short-fall in revenue, the major issues will be transportation, taxes, trauma (healthcare) and education.
State Senator Chip Pearson is on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Transportation, and I hope he will write an article about DOT funding in the near future. He is well informed on the problems with DOT and with the funding mechanisms likely to be introduced.
With respect to taxes, the House is making ad valorem property tax reform its top priority.
Last year the House passed a measure which would have frozen ad valorem property values, allowing an increase equal to the cost of living index. The measure failed in the Senate because the Lt. Governor wanted to cut income taxes and a compromise could not be reached.
Many cities and school systems are against freezing the value of property because it eliminates the back-door increase in taxes. This year I have heard from hundreds of you voicing complaints about the increases in your property taxes. I feel confident that if statewide tax reform makes it to the ballot box, you will vote for it.
When it comes to how you want to be taxed, citizens need to get more involved. Every time a budget is discussed, you need to be present to voice your opinion. Better schools, roads, sewers, fire protection, etc., cost money. You need to know how your money is being spent and the cost of each project.
In addition to your attending budget hearings, the Lt. Governor and Legislators need to hear from you. In your messages we need the reasons you are for or against some issue. That's the way you can lobby for what you want directly with your elected state officials.
Many of you already know that I favor property tax reform over cuts in income taxes because more people will be affected. Think about it. Income tax cuts will have little effect on most middle to low-income people who already pay little or no state income taxes, yet these same people have to pay ever-increasing property taxes. Property tax stabilization will help homeowners and commercial property owners by allowing them to better plan for their tax expenditures.
As my past articles have indicated, I also favor user fees to generate tax revenue. Georgia currently taxes gasoline to pay for highway maintenance. Most of the money comes from sales taxes. The more miles driven, the more gas used, and the more taxes paid. We are being told that the current method does not generate enough revenue to maintain our roads, and the method favored by many legislators is to add another penny to sales tax, going from 7 percent to 8 percent. I believe this places an unfair burden on those who buy goods but don't travel much. What do you think?
While we are on user fees, we might as well discuss trauma care. Everyone wants it, but no one wants to fund it. Trauma care is expensive. Seventy five percent of the trauma cases result from automobile accidents and the more miles driven, the more likely an accident will occur. The other 25 percent of trauma cases occur mostly from accidents around the home. One way being discussed to fund trauma care is to add $5 per year to homeowner insurance policies and $10 dollars per year to motor vehicle tag fees. That could provide a well-funded trauma care system. Let me know what you think about these funding ideas for trauma care.
I want to thank all of the Retired Educators who swamped the TRS Board with your letters objecting to changing the COLA requirements. Last week the Board voted to leave "well enough" alone. We won! Georgia's Teacher Retirement System is one of the oldest and best-funded retirement systems in the United States. It's doing fine and we don't need any more government intervention.
The new Legislative Session begins Jan. 12. I'd like to hear from you before then on your legislative needs. That will give me time to do my homework before the Session starts.
Remember, the secret of good government is a well-informed electorate.
I can be contacted at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, Ga. 30533, (706) 864-6589, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.