Archive for November, 2010

State revenues climb for fifth straight month

October continued Georgia’s string of positive tax collections as Gov. Sonny Perdue said Wednesday that the state’s revenue picture continued to improve.

Figures released by Perdue’s office show that tax and fee collections increased for the fifth straight month.

October revenue collections were more than $1.23 billion, compared to $1.14 billion in October 2009, an increase of 8.2 percent. For the fiscal year, which began July 1, collections are up by 7.6 percent over the same four months off last year.

Sales tax collections continued to pace the growth as October saw the state bring in nearly $56 million more in sales and uses taxes than a year ago. Individual income taxes also posted strong figures, increasing 4.1 percent or $25 million.

Corporate income taxes, however, continue to be a problem area as businesses continue to struggle to grow. Business income taxes were down another 10.5 percent in October as the state paid out $5.4 million more in refunds than it took in in …

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Can women stop Democratic bleeding?

Political Insider’s Jim Galloway talked with a few Democrats this week to find out how they planned to regain their footing after their recent drubbing at the polls.

Gender may be the answer, [state Rep. Stacey] Abrams and others think. The Republican party has become the party of the white male Georgian. White female voters have become the decision-makers in elections – the swing voters.

To climb out of the black-versus-white box, Democrats will need to create a different, male-versus-female box – with education and economic security as the primary issues….

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur) agreed. “It’s very important that the gender gap be understood by the Democratic party now,” she said.

Read more in Political Insider.

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Ex-GOP rival Eric Johnson joins the ranks of lobbyists

Former Republican candidate for governor Eric Johnson, now a member of Gov.-elect Nathan Deal’s transition team, has signed on as a senior advisor to McGuireWoods Consulting.

He will serve the firm as a contract lobbyist, a spokesman for the firm said – but will keep his position with a Savannah architectural company.

Johnson, who resigned his state Senate seat last year, finished a close third in the GOP primary for governor, behind Karen Handel and Deal.

“We are excited to have Senator Johnson joining us,” said Frank Atkinson, chairman of McGuireWoods Consulting, said in a press release. “Throughout the years, he has shown he understands how to effect change and deliver results, reaching across the aisle on key issues including tax and ethics reform, water policy, and school choice. He will bring that same level of commitment to our clients.”

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Senate GOP to require pledge to Georgia flag

In an apparent nod to state sovereignty, Senate Republicans will require members of their chamber to recite the pledge of allegiance to the state flag of Georgia every morning they gather – after a daily devotional and a pledge to the U.S. flag.

The addition to the chambers’ rituals was adopted Friday at a caucus meeting in Macon, as part of a wholesale change in state rules that included the stripping of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of most of his powers. Read more on Political Insider.

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Two more House Democrats join GOP caucus

Two long-time South Georgia Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday made the switch to the Republican side of the General Assembly.

Reps. Bob Hanner of Parrott and Gerald Greene of Cuthbert are now listed on the Georgia General Assembly’s website as being Republicans.

Neither lawmaker could be reached for immediate comment, but the office of Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, confirmed the changes Tuesday. But Hanner has served as a Democrat in the House since 1975 and Greene was sworn in in 1983, also as a Democrat.

Hanner and Greene join Rep. Alan Powell of Hartwell in leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP in the wake of last week’s Republican sweep of statewide offices.

Their moves now give the Republicans 111 seats in the 180-seat chamber.

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Nathan Deal’s top aide worries ethics watchdogs

By Alan Judd, AJC staff writer

Nathan Deal’s meeting with state revenue officials last year had not gone well. Deal, a congressman who would soon became a candidate for governor, was trying to save a government inspection program that paid his auto salvage business hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Participants later described the meeting with such words as “contentious” and “hostile.”

Nevertheless, at the end, one official apparently asked Deal for a favor: no more contact from Chris Riley.

The episode, recounted in documents from a congressional investigation, highlights Riley’s tenacity and his devotion to his long-time boss, the Republican who was elected Georgia’s governor last Tuesday.

It also serves as an example of how Riley, Deal’s top congressional aide since 1998, seems to have mixed public policy and private business while on the federal payroll.

Riley, 41, who will become the governor’s chief of staff in January, played a key role in several incidents of …

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Georgia leaders face decisions on health law changes

By Carrie Teegardin, AJC staff writer

As many states are hunkering down to plan the details of their role in the nation’s health care overhaul, Georgia’s newly elected leaders must decide how to implement a sweeping law that they strongly oppose.

While state officials can’t modify the law, Georgia’s new governor, insurance commissioner and attorney general — who are all Republicans — will influence how the law works in Georgia. Democratic lawmakers worry that Republican opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will prevent the state from making the necessary plans to implement provisions they say many Georgians desperately need.

Even experts who oppose the law say it’s smart for Georgia’s new leadership to plan for the law as passed. Otherwise, they say, they risk being forced to take what Washington devises instead of using the influence they have to shape what Georgia consumers end up with.

“States shouldn’t sit around waiting for a miracle to happen with …

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Ga. GOP House caucus grows, elects O’Neal majority leader

Celebrating its historic growth in this month’s elections, the Georgia House Republican caucus on Monday elected a new majority leader, welcomed Governor-elect Nathan Deal and grew by another member when a Democrat switched parties.

The caucus, which will welcome more than two dozen freshmen in January, elected Rep. Larry O’Neal, of Bonaire, to serve as House majority leader. He beat out Rep. James Mills, of Gainesville, for the job. O’Neal will replace former House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, St. Simons Island, who recently resigned.

“We now have momentum on our side,” said O’Neal, who has worked as an accountant and tax lawyer and has served as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

“And the time is right to seize and embrace the opportunity to further our conservative agenda. I want to help us continue to grow and prosper. But most importantly – and hear this loud and clear – we must keep the conservative promises we all made to our constituents and fellow …

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Few limits on reimbursements for Atlanta City Council members

An analysis of Atlanta City Council records shows taxpayers picked up the tab for nearly $29,000 in spending that promoted Councilwoman Cleta Winslow’s name in the final weeks before last year’s council elections.

According to political watchdog Jim Walls, the shopping list included jazz musicians, a disc jockey, an inflatable bouncer, a popcorn machine and other equipment, plus $8,000 worth of barbecue and side dishes, for events Oct. 17 and 24 last year. Read more of the AJC investigation.

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Deal to face many thorny issues as governor

He will be moving into the Governor’s Mansion amid persistent job losses, furloughs for public school teachers, traffic gridlock, a decades-old water war with Alabama and Florida, and concerns about illegal immigration. Take a look at some of the top issues that will confront Gov.-elect Nathan Deal.

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