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The People's Business
Friday, 16 January 2009

(Editor's Note:  The following article is provided by Senator Tommie Williams of Lyons.)

The 2009 Legislative Session promises to be marked by its challenges as the General Assembly seeks to balance the budget in the wake of a $2.3 billion shortfall.  The budget shortfall has caused us to thoughtfully examine spending priorities as tough decisions lie ahead.  This year in particular reminds us of how critically important conservative fiscal stewardship is as we are entrusted and held accountable by our constituents.

I am humbled that my Senate colleagues elected me as the President Pro Tempore.  The Pro Tem is elected by all 56 Members of the Senate and is often referred to as the “Senators’ Senator,” serving as the voice of the entire Senate, not only as a leader within the Republican Party.  Below is an overview of my thoughts on some of the goals we need to accomplish during this pivotal time for the people of Georgia.

The Budget:

This week Governor Perdue presented the State of the State address which reiterated the importance of building a stronger Georgia by creating a leaner, more efficient government.  Like many Georgia families and small businesses, we must make difficult decisions in order to balance our checkbook.  I am committed to working with both the Governor and the House to do what is best for Georgians in these tough economic times.

 

To accomplish budget goals, we must limit government spending and growth through increased accountability.  We must institute tighter fiscal controls on the way government spends money and get back to the fundamentals role of government in peoples’ lives. 

 

Economic Development:

 

We cannot boost the economy without economic development and job creation.  Stimulating economic development through tax incentives and reduced regulatory burdens will create jobs.  We plan to examine the housing market crisis as well as find ways to attract businesses to the state. 

 

Homeowners need relief through tough economic times.  Reforming Georgia’s inequitable property tax system by capping increases in tax assessments will help mitigate personal budgets during rapid fluctuations in the housing markets.

 

Education:

There are more honor grads in India than there are students in America. China now has the most English speaking people. Technology has outdated us. A kid who starts at Georgia Tech looses his first two years of study as they are outdated the last two years he is there. Are we keeping up with these changes, these global changes? I don’t think we are.

 

We must continue to build on efforts aimed at transforming Georgia’s failing schools. We are graduating only 73 percent of our students. Will the other 27 percent be able to compete on the global scale? Our fourth grade ranks 41st in test scores, 39th in reading scores. Our eighth grader reading scores are 38th and math scores are 39th in the country.  Eighth graders in the U.S. lag behind their peers in other countries in math (10th) and science (12th). By incentivizing teachers with career opportunities and a merit system, we can improve the quality of education in addition to attract and retain excellent teachers. 

 

Energy & Natural Resources:

 

Georgia is rich in its natural resources and through these we can lead the way for an abundant, clean, sustainable energy supply that also promotes environmental conservation.  We must develop a comprehensive and environmentally responsible energy strategy to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources through investment in new technologies. 

 

Utilizing natural resources, such as wood chips, for biomass energy production, has proven to be a clean source of energy that encourages environmental conservation and will actually encourage forest growth.  In addition, they create jobs and boost local area economies by bringing additional economic development to local areas. 

 

In conclusion:

We have a lot to accomplish this session.  We must address the issues of education, trauma, taxes, transportation, jobs, and balancing our budget. We can’t wait for the next election year to address these issues. It shouldn’t be yes we can, but also yes we will.

 

I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve the 19th district and would like to hear about the issues that are important to you.

 

 
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