Whew, it's over! And I'm not talking about all the storms we've been having or the pollen season that has me going to an allergist for the first time since I was a child. I'm talking about the legislative session.
"Sine Die" has come and gone, and unless a special session occurs, the Legislature won't be back again until January 2010. I wish I could say that our legislature behaved responsibly in these tough times, working on job creation and making sure that we invested our tax dollars wisely in these, the worst economic times in our state since the 1930s. I wish I could say that we concentrated on infrastructure, on making sure our schools were funded and on trying to tackle the skyrocketing costs of health care.
But I can't. Heck, I wish I could at least say that we did no harm. I'm not sure I can even say that.
Georgia, unlike the federal government, is constitutionally required to balance its budget every year. That's important to remember, especially because of two present factors.
First, our revenues from sales taxes are dropping drastically every month and the budget produced by the Governor's Office fails to take this into account.
Second, Republican-backed bills set in motion a couple of huge tax giveaways to the rich (including $400 million to the top 1 percent of Georgia income earners), a la the Bush Congress earlier in the decade.
Mix these ingredients together, and you have a recipe for financial disaster in our state starting about September. How the Republican-controlled Legislature here in Georgia failed to learn the lessons of what happened to Washington Republicans in the last four years, I don't know. Despite the recent mistakes of their national counterparts, state Republicans continue to pass policies which are proven failures and will ultimately be of detriment to Georgia's citizens.
Instead of focusing on bills that would actually create jobs or tackle education and health care problems, we focused on a bill to ban stem cell research in Georgia and a sweetheart deal for Georgia Power to raise our rates while they build a nuclear power plant.
The stem cell bill was watered down but it may still serve the purpose that Christian Coalition leaders stated it had on NPR: discouraging biotech companies from locating here (and by here I mean along Ga. Highway 316 in Gwinnett County). And the state Legislature again missed the opportunity to address Georgia's traffic needs by failing to come up with any type of comprehensive transportation funding plan, be it for roads, mass transit or anything.
Generally, Perdue and his legislative leaders failed to rise up to the task of guiding Georgia through its worst economic decline since the 1930s. They instead, once again, bent to their ideological base, whose hyper focused agendas fail to recognize the bigger picture and regrettably, fail to serve the best interests of the citizens of Georgia.
It is too often that state Republicans allow the most vocal and misguided portion of their base to shape policy that just doesn't work for the people of Georgia. The question remains, when will the voters of Georgia realize that this is the case and elect those leaders who have the best interests of all Georgians at heart?
Curt Thompson is a Democratic state senator from Norcross.