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Sen. David Shafer addresses Gwinnett Chamber to preview legislative session

Sen. David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday.


David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, addresses the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, addresses the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Sen. David Shafer addresses Gwinnett Chamber

Sen. David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday.

Sen. David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the state Senate, spoke to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday.

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Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, addresses the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday. Shafer is president pro tempore of the state Senate. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

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Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer, R-Duluth, addresses the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce during a legislative luncheon Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Camie Young)

David Shafer has come a long way from his first political speech more than 30 years ago.

Now the Georgia Senate’s president pro tempore, Shafer recounted the tale of his first address, a last-minute replacement representing a campaign, where he confused a county underwriters group for undertakers, during his high-profile speech to the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.

A month before the General Assembly reconvenes in Atlanta, Shafer focused on budget talks, as leaders are expected a rushed session in a big election year.

While economic times forced $5 billion in budget cuts over recent years, Shafer said he doesn’t expect much trimming in 2014, but after success in a decade-long struggle to have the state tackle zero-based budgeting, the Republican leader said he expects legislators to delve into the details of spending.

“I believe government is better and more efficient now than it was when we were spending more money,” Shafer said of belt-tightening the past five years.

His zero-based budgeting approach, he explained, will mean leaders will more closely examine an eighth of the nearly $20 billion state budget each year, instead of simply approving continuation spending.

“That piece of legislation is something of which I am immensely proud and that will help us be a more efficent state moving forward,” Shafer said.

A proponent of shifting state revenues from sales taxes as opposed to the current income tax, Shafer said Georgia would be more competitive in economic development, especially compared to Tennessee and Florida, which have no state income tax. But the fight, he said, is more likely to occur after next year’s governor’s race is determined.

Shafer said he believes the government’s dollars need to be redirected to infrastructure and other needs, while allowing businesses and individuals to succeed.

He told the hometown crowd about his grandmother’s experience raising seven children after her husband died in a workplace accident, working hard and making sure her sons worked as well to take care of expenses.

He compared the circumstances to today’s political environment, but said he believes the family’s struggle did more to build the subsequent generations than if they had relied on food stamps and other government programs.

“I believe the strength of that family is that they worked through that together,” said the GOP senator, who represents Duluth. “I don’t believe (government programs) help the people that it is intended to help. … We’ve got to break the cycle of dependency that I believe has weakened people.”