Moving into the third week of session, we continue to focus on the legislature’s role in job growth for Georgia.
I co-chaired the first joint Economic Development Committee meeting with our colleagues in the House to hear from several experts on various facets of Georgia’s economy. We were joined by a new House committee that was created to study proposals aimed at small businesses and job creation.
Dr. Michael Toma, professor of economics at Atlantic Armstrong State University in Savannah, highlighted the importance of deepening Savannah’s ports to maintain Georgia’s competitive edge and create jobs throughout the state.
Georgia’s deepwater ports and inland barge terminals support more than 280,000 jobs throughout the state annually and contribute nearly $15 billion in income. He warned against raising taxes that would discourage growth in this economic climate, and suggested that reducing the cost of business is a viable short-term option, in addition to enhancing job retaining tax credits and rewarding business that pull people off unemployment insurance rolls.
Of course, Georgia’s heavy exposure in the construction and real estate sector is a large part of the reason we rank among the top 10 states in job loss.
According to Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Mercer University, Georgia has lost more than 26 percent of jobs in the construction industry. He suggested that we look to industries such as manufacturing, technology, health sciences and telecommunications to absorb some of this loss.
Georgia has absorbed most of the inventory of homes left from the housing slump according to Eugene James, director of Metrostudy’s Atlanta region, a leading housing market intelligence firm. Closings have been ahead of housing starts for quite some time, but by the end of 2009, starts had dropped 92 percent from 2006, where they had reached 58,000.
James said he doesn’t expect to see housing starts reach the same levels we experienced at the peak in mid-2006, but suggested that 30,000 starts could become the future standard.
Noted economist Robert Pretcher warned that despite popular predictions of expected growth in the middle of the year, recovery will be much slower, especially if stocks begin to decline again. In order to best achieve recovery, he stressed the importance of removing impediments to job creation, such as repealing business regulations and eliminating corporate income taxes.
Georgia is poised for a strong economic recovery as one of the lowest taxed states in the nation and with the lowest debt per capita.
I was encouraged to hear our speakers’ suggestions on what we can do to capitalize on these advantages.
In fact, Senate and House lawmakers are again pursuing passage of the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2010, legislation that is designed to stimulate the state’s economy by providing tax credits, cuts and incentives to create, expand and attract new businesses in Georgia.
The latest JOBS Act utilizes free-market solutions to empower the private sector and drive Georgia’s economic recovery.
We also celebrated Tourism Day at the State Capitol, recognizing Georgia’s second largest industry that is responsible for providing 240,000 jobs statewide, more than $34 billion annually and $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.
Each year, this event gives the legislature an opportunity to recognize the representatives from the travel and tourism industry who work hard to promote Georgia as a premier travel destination and to stimulate economic growth.
Back in committee, my legislation to protect Georgians from being involuntarily implanted with a microchip passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed to the Senate Floor for a vote. Senate Bill 235 upholds our constitutional rights of protection of person and property by prohibiting anyone from having a microchip involuntarily implanted. The bill also lays out guidelines for voluntary implantation, which can only be performed by a physician and will be regulated by the State Board of Medical Examiners. This bill sends the message that Georgia will uphold its citizens’ constitutional rights and protection of their personal property.
The Senate made history this week when we formally invited House Speaker, and former senator, David Ralston to the chamber and presented him with a resolution honoring his election to the speakership and his work as an elected official.
He is the first senator to be elected Speaker of the House, and the first speaker to be invited to address the Senate Chamber.
Speaker Ralston was joined by 20 other former state senators who each received a welcoming reception from the entire Senate. It is an honor to serve the North Georgia area with Speaker Ralston, who resides in Blue Ridge. His election to the speakership is a benefit to our region and the entire state of Georgia.
Sen. Chip Pearson can be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.