Christmas is right around the corner. That means it’s time to count some of this year’s blessings.
First, I want to thank all of you for allowing me to be your State Representative.
It is my privilege to continue to serve you, especially during these challenging economic times.
I appreciate the large number of you who have called to thank me for your greatly reduced tax bills. I have even received calls from constituents who turned 65 this year, wanting me to know they look forward to their reduced tax bills next year.
I recently read that next year’s Lumpkin County tax bills will be due on Nov. 15, instead of Dec. 20 as in the past. This earlier date will help the city, county and school board prepare their budgets on the same cycle and prevent any late penalty payments by the county.
My thanks go to the city and county governments, as well as the school systems, for cutting their budgets so that either minimal or no tax increases have been placed on the backs of property owners this year.
Many local governments are holding pre-session meetings with their legislative delegations to discuss pending local legislation and statewide legislation, which will impact local governments. They are suggesting changes to state laws affecting issues like SPLOST collections.
Some counties would like to collect it locally rather than have the Department of Revenue collect all sales taxes and then reimburse the counties and cities.
Finally, thank you to so many who tell me that I am in your prayers. I ask you to continue to pray for all of us in the General Assembly, especially the House of Representatives.
Both the Speaker and the Speaker Pro Tem will be stepping down the first week of the 2010 Session. Last Friday the Republican Caucus met and discussed how this transition would take place.
We continue to hold pre-session appropriations committee hearings. We know that painful cuts may be necessary, but I believe that the following four areas need to be funded at some significant level. I have written on all of these in the past.
Trauma: The state needs a heavy investment in trauma centers, particularly south of Macon. Further, there needs to be a permanent source of income, so hospitals and centers do not need to beg money from the General Assembly each and every year.
Transportation: If you drive, as I did, from Dahlonega though Mobile to San Antonio; then return via Natchez-Birmingham-Atlanta, there is no question that Georgia has the best roads in the South. However, these roads were built in another time, and they are starting to wear out. Additionally, I believe it is time to build more light-rail transportation in and around Atlanta. A model similar to London’s rapid transit system would be great. Picture a rail loop following I-285 with stops at the major shopping centers and connectors to and through downtown.
Education: Under Gov. Perdue/Kathy Cox the graduation rate has substantially improved, but I do not believe that we have reached the national average of 79 percent. A large vocal majority of parents are demanding school choice.
Water: The governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia will meet this week, but I don’t see their planned discussions bearing fruit. Atlanta needs another airport, so why not cut a deal with the Governor of Tennessee to make Chattanooga Atlanta’s second terminal in exchange for a large straw into the Tennessee River. Georgia could build a high-speed rail line between the two cities. Putting a train stop in Dalton (which has about 16 percent unemployment) their unemployed workers would have a connection in both directions.
Again, I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail email@example.com.