The Georgia General Assembly convened for the 2009 legislative session and it promises to be one of the most challenging since I was first elected. Our state’s economy is in crisis and as legislators we must balance fiscal discipline with the needs of every Georgian.
Over the next few months, we will grapple with a $2 billion on budget short fall in this year’s budget and the possibility that next year may be worse, continued transportation needs throughout the state, a $208 million Medicaid shortfall, a housing crisis and a trauma care network that desperately needs to be expanded.
I believe that now more than ever, we must be constantly searching for ways to expand and grow our economy and the industries that are already thriving in Georgia. One such industry is the equine industry – raising, stabling and training horses. Since equine is in the top six commodities as far as value, (even above traditional commodities such as peanuts) I believe that an expansion of the equine industry would create new jobs, attract new financial investment in our state, and new revenue and profits could be gained from training and racing horses in Georgia. That is why I have co-sponsored House Resolution 78 that would create a committee to study the benefits to Georgia of an expanded equine industry.
Over the next few months, you will hear a lot about tax cuts and tax hikes. Make no mistake, there will be a lot of conflicting reports but I will do my best to present you with the plain facts. This week I joined my colleagues in the House to ensure that Georgia homeowners will continue to receive a property tax credit provided by the state. House Bill 143, guaranteeing the Homeowner Tax Relief Grants for the current fiscal year, was approved by the House on Jan. 30 with bi-partisan support. The bill also included a provision to continue to provide the grants to homeowners in the future provided the state’s tax revenue collections are strong – a measure that I believe is the fiscally responsible path for our state to take.
A very unfortunate and tragic incident in our state is playing out now and as Agriculture Committee Chairman, I felt compelled last week to speak about it on the floor of the House. The salmonella outbreak that has been traced back to a Georgia peanut plant is deeply troubling and should serve as a warning to all of us, especially those in the agriculture and food industries. This tragedy could have and should have been prevented. We now know that numerous red flags went up but were ignored at many levels. The families of those affected include not only those who became ill after they consumed the products but also the plant workers who knew nothing about what was going on and have now lost their jobs. These victims all have my sympathy and I hope that this incident opens our eyes to the work that must be done to protect our food supply from contamination.
Please know that this is a manufacturing problem and that the commodities produced by Georgia farmers are safe for consumption. In order to verify which food items are affected by this outbreak, check the list of products on the foodsafety.gov website to make sure you do not have any of these items in your pantry or freezer.
I will continue to keep you up to date on our actions as the legislative session progresses. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at your Capitol office at (404) 656-5115.
Rep. Tom McCall (R), Elberton, is the District 30 member of the Georgia House of Representatives, which includes the southern half of Madison County, all of Elbert County and the eastern portion of Jackson County.
One way to increase revenue is to elilminate all sales tax exemptions. No industry in this state can justify such an exemption and it is unfair to all Georgians who have to pay sales tax. Eliminating this exemption would also place more money in local budgets for SPLOST projects.