Archive for April, 2009

UPDATED: Olens to run for AG; Westmoreland for governor?

Updated throughout:

Cobb County Commission chairman Sam Olens will seek the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010, surprising many Tuesday who expected him to run for governor. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is “very seriously” looking at a bid for the GOP nomination for governor, the Coweta County congressman’s press secretary told the AJC’s Bob Keefe today. 

In a trip to the state last week, Westmoreland got “a lot of encouragement” from Republicans, his spokesman Brian Robinson said. 

In a news conference at the commission office in Marietta, Olens said he made his decision through discussions with his family and in realizing the current candidates for governor are basically running “24/7 now and not doing the jobs they were elected to do.”

Those candidates, on the Republican side, are Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton). States rights activist Ray McBerry is also running. …

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Isakson remains committed to re-election

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) remains “unequivocally” determined to seek re-election and is not re-considering a bid for governor in 2010, his campaign and Senate staff said. 

Over the past year, Isakson’s name had been mentioned as a potential candidate for the governor’s office, but the former state lawmaker had squashed that talk. But with Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s announcement last week that he would run for the number two job again, rather than continue his front-running bid for governor, Isakson’s name had resurfaced. 

On Tuesday, however, Isakson’s campaign spokesman, Heath Garrett, told the AJC that such talk is “just rumors.”

And Isakson’s Senate deputy chief of staff, Joan Kirchner, concurred. 

“There is nothing to this,” Kirchner said. “Johnny is not changing his plans and he is enthusiastically running for re-election to the Senate.”

Later today, however, the race for governor is still expected to grow by a candidate. Cobb County Commission chairman …

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Burkhalter may be next to join governor’s race

Gold Dome Live talked to House Speaker Pro-Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Johns Creek) after Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pulled out of the governor’s race and the House leader said he’s taking a fresh look at the race.

Burkhalter is friends with Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens, and it’s doubtful both would run for governor.

But Burkhalter has been a strong voice for the pro-business tax-cutting wing of the GOP. He has led the fight for years to eliminate the “birthday tax,” the property tax Georgians pay annually on their cars. Many tax breaks in recent years have had his name on it.

He also has the benefit of being very familiar with several of the Democrats in the race for governor. Burkhalter has served in the House with Attorney General Thurbert Baker, ex-Gov. Roy Barnes and House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin).

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Cagle drops out of governor’s race

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a leading Republican contender for governor in 2010, dropped out of the race Wednesday.

Cagle told reporters he has had back and neck pain for several years, but it progressed during the 2009 session to the point where he had some paralysis. He tried therapy, but was advised that he needed surgery.

“I’ve been diagnosed with some serious nerve and bone problems and a degenerative spinal condition,” he told reporters at a Capitol news conference.  ” The issue could be hereditary or it could be the result of an old injury, but the unfortunate reality is that it requires immediate surgical treatment.”  

Cagle said he will have the surgery and would run for re-election next year to his current job. Running for lieutenant governor is generally seen as less strenuous than running for governor, which is essentially a full-time job.

“This is a challenge I have to face,” Cagle said.

Cagle choked up several times during his announcement at the Capitol. He was …

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Cagle out of governor’s race

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle today announced that he’s dropping out of the governor’s race in 2010.

Cagle called a press conference for 1:30 p.m., and said medical issues forced him from the race. He’s still planning to run for lieutenant governor. Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue cannot seek another term.

The announcement came as a surprise since Cagle, a Republican, has raised the most money of any candidate in the race and was considered a strong contender.

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Foreclosure bill signed into law

Gov. Sonny Perdue has signed Senate Bill 55, which requires tax assessors to factor in foreclosures in neighborhoods when assessing the taxable value of a home.

Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville), filed SB 55 because a lot of foreclosures in a neighborhood can lower the value of other homes in the area. If foreclosures aren’t taken into account by assessors, Pearson said, homeowners wind up having inflated values and have to pay higher taxes.

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Oops: Legislature approves money to buy land that’s not for sale

The General Assembly approved a budget earlier this month that includes $1.6 million to buy the Albany Museum of Art and its land for Darton College.

Two-year Darton College planned to turn it into faculty offices and space for arts programs.

The problem is the Albany Museum of Art isn’t for sale. 

Charles Williams, a member of the museum board and an assistant arts professor at Albany State University said in a recent letter to the Albany Herald that he is puzzled by the state’s decision to fund the Darton project.

“As of our last board meeting, it was decided unanimously that the Albany Museum of Art was not moving,” he wrote. “The museum is, therefore, not for sale. There has never been a proposal presented at a board meeting since claiming that any agreement has been reached.”

Williams lamented that while approving the $1.6 million for the Darton project, the General Assembly rejected funding for an addition to a building at Albany State.

“If economic times are too tough …

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Recession has dimmed most sales, but not booze buys

State tax collections took another double-digit dip in March but one tax is holding up well in the recession: the one for alcoholic beverages.

According to Department of Revenue numbers, taxes paid on alcoholic beverages increased 8 percent in March and are up 1.7 percent for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. In fiscal 2009, the state has collected about $124 million from liquor taxes, up from $122 million during the first nine months of fiscal 2008.

That may not seem like much, but consider that the two biggest categories of taxes – income and sales – are off 8.8 percent and 6.3 percent for the year. Corporate income taxes are off 25.1 percent, and motor fuel taxes more than 10 percent.

Even taxes on tobacco products are down 2.7 percent.

Liquor tax collections are one of the few positives for revenue collections that, in total, are down 8.6 percent this fiscal year.

The revenue department report came out only a few days after the 2009 General Assembly session closed. Late …

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Oxendine says Cagle doesn’t like to “think hard”

The signs have been there for quite a while, but the Republican gubernatorial primary battle between Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle could get real ugly, real fast.

In a post-General Assembly session interview with the AJC this week, Oxendine, who holds a law degree, took some pointed shots at the way Cagle, who doesn’t have a college degree, thinks.

“The Legislature and the presiding officers, and more so with Cagle,  would rather have the status quo than have somebody else get their way,” Oxendine said. “If change means somebody else’s idea, he (Cagle) would rather have the status quo.
“The status quo is the easy way to govern. It doesn’t take a lot of thinking, it’s not brain surgery. To do things differently requires intellectual thought and sometimes he may prefer the easy way out. I think sometimes he just prefers the easy way out, of saying, ‘I’ll stick with the status quo, that way I don’t have to think hard.”

Cagle did think hard enough …

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Perdue certifies first batch of stimulus cash for roads

Gov. Sonny Perdue gave the go-ahead on Thursday for the state to accept more than $200 million in federal stimulus funds for road projects around the state. 

The money, which represents about a quarter of the state’s total stimulus package for roads and bridges, will go for 67 projects. The project list comes from a larger plan the state Department of Transportation has for the nearly $1 billion Georgia will receive from the federal stimulus plan for road and bridge projects.

“This first batch of projects includes some badly needed bridge repairs, resurfacing projects on highways with some of our lowest pavement ratings and two widening projects that will improve congestion and safety and spur economic activity,” Perdue said in announcing that he had submitted the necessary paperwork with the U.S. Department of Transportation to accept the money.

In the letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Perdue said more projects will be certified for stimulus funding as the state …

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