Archive for February, 2010

Handel, Scott spar over $1 billion budget solution

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Karen Handel said Thursday that thousands of state employees should be laid off to help make up a potential $1 billion budget shortfall for 2011.

Handel, speaking to reporters in an impromptu news conference on press  hall across the street from the Capitol, Handel said her plan would save $404 million for fiscal year 2011, which begins July 1.

Handel, a former Republican secretary of state running in a seven-way primary for the GOP nomination as governor, did not have a detailed plan for finding the other $600 million in necessary cuts that lawmakers are now struggling with, but said raising taxes is the wrong idea. She said her plan is about a structural change to state government.

“No one likes or relishes the ideas of layoffs,” she said. “That said, we’ve been entrusted with taxpayer funds. Hhow could you continue to look at state government as a jobs program rather than an entity charged with delivering limited yet key services in a cost …

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Carol Porter to run for lieutenant gov, creates husband-wife ticket

Carol Porter will seek the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, joining her husband, DuBose Porter, as a potential husband and wife team at the top of the party’s ticket.

Carol Porter, who announced her intention at a Capitol news conference with her husband and their boys at her side, becomes the first Democrat to announce for lieutenant governor. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is seeking re-election on the Republican side.

DuBose Porter, the House minority leader, is one of five Democrats seeking the gubernatorial nomination. Should they both become Democratic nominees, it sets up a potentially historic one-two punch. But Carol Porter said it’s not a gimmick aimed at boosting her husband’s campaign.

“If this is a gimmick and it’s going to get corruption out of government, you can give me a dozen,” she said.

While candidates for governor and lieutenant governor do not run together as a ticket in Georgia, Carol Porter said theirs will definitely be a team effort.

“We …

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Oxendine sign removed from Capitol

oxsignBA big, blue Oxendine for Governor sign was removed from the 2nd floor of the state Capitol this morning, after a complaint was made to the Georgia Building Authority.

The sign was placed on an easel outside a room where a state Republican women’s group was meeting.

GBA rules governing use of the Capitol and its grounds prohibit political campaign signs.

A spokesman for John Oxendine’s team said the campaign was sponsoring the breakfast event.

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College tuition hikes get support from strapped lawmakers

It would take a 77 percent tuition increase at Georgia’s colleges and universities to meet the demand for a $385 million cut in the state’s higher education system budget, Chancellor Erroll Davis said Wednesday.

Davis, speaking before a sometimes testy joint House-Senate budget committee, said that would raise tuition at the research universities to more than $10,000 a year, while four-year colleges would raise to more than $6,700 and two-year college tuition would grow to more than $4,000.

But it took some time for Davis to get to that point. Sen. Seth Harp (R-Midland) interrupted Davis as the chancellor was explaining how dire the university system’s financial situation is.

“We are in a budget crisis,” Harp said. “I fully appreciate what you have offered. We are familiar with this. We have got to cut another $200 to $300 million out of your budget. Please, prioritize where those cuts will come or we will do it blindly.”

But Davis did not bring suggested cuts, arguing instead …

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Senate approves mid-year budget

Just after voting to take a two-week break to work on the 2011 budget, the Georgia State Senate voted to approve last year’s amended state budget by slashing more than a $1 billion in spending.

The bill, HB 947, passed 44-6 and will now go back to the Georgia House of Representatives.

The senators voted to cut $1.2 billion in spending from the budget – which runs through June 30 – while furloughing teachers and state employees for three additional days.

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Senate votes to take two-week break

Spring Break is upon us.

The Senate today introduced a resolution  - sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams (R-Lyons) and Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) – calling for a break from the legislative session until March 8.

Senators voted 35-17 to halt the session.

Lawmakers will spend the time working with Gov. Sonny Perdue to resolve the 2011 budget.

The people of Georgia sent us here to do our job and do it quickly,” Rogers said. “Doing it right is going to take a little more time. This is not a vacation, time off or a moment to relax. This is a very serious job and we will be working to that end everyday between now and March 8.”

Steve Thompson (D-Marietta) wondered if the wrong message was being sent by taking such a long break. Rogers countered that he wondered if two weeks is enough time.

While the Senators were voting to take a break, they would also pass the amended $17.4 billion mid-year budget.

Today marks the 20th day of the …

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Senators spar of territory, C-Tran at issue

It is about 21 miles from Decatur, where Sen. Emanuel Jones, lives to Riverdale, where Sen. Valencia Seay resides. It is about 10 steps from their offices inside a suite on the fourth floor of the State Capitol.

Seems like enough distance, but there is a turf war building.

Seay (D-Riverdale), went to the well of the Senate Wednesday and ripped Jones (D-Decatur), for his comments and involvement in the C-Tran matter. For the record, Jones had just spoken from the well about the need to do more on the issue.

Clayton County is less than two months away from having no public transportation.

“I rise to let it be known that I too care about the people of Clayton County. We have been working diligently on this matter,” Seay said.  “And the last time I looked, the “C” in C-Tran stood for Clayton.”

Seay said it would cost about $12 million to keep the system running. Last October the Clayton Commission voted 4-1 to shut down C-Tran at the end of March because it was losing …

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General Platt storms the Capitol, calls for pants legislation

Throughout this legislative session, the Capitol has welcomed soldiers, Boy Scouts and police officers to come speak before the House or the Senate.

On the 19th day, they honored a general.

General Larry Platt, the civil rights warrior-turned “American Idol” star for his socially conscious tune, “Pants on the Ground,” was honored by the Senate and the House today.

It was arguably the most exciting event of the session thus far.

With his hair freshly-cut in a box fade and sporting four stars on each shoulder, Platt waded through crowds of legislators, pages, lobbyists and well-wishers, shaking their hands.

He asked state troopers on guard throughout the Capitol to help him persuade kids to keep their pants up.

“I want these pants to come up,” Platt told Senators from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s podium. “These people have embarrassed the community and embarrassed y’all.”

Watching a feed of Platt speaking in the House, Gov. Sonny Perdue called him to his office.

Sen. …

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Senate panel advances Perdue plan to siphon GEFA funds

A Senate committee this week gave Gov. Sonny Perdue a major victory in his plan to use nearly $300 million in state water and sewer bond money to plug a gaping hole in the 2011 state budget.

The Senate Special Judiciary Committee on Monday approved an amended version of HB 244 to allow the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority to transfer money to the state general fund. Perdue wants use $288 million in GEFA money to balance the budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Perdue said that GEFA has $1 billion in a fund designed to finance bonds for local governments who cannot get financing through the general bond market. The state instead finances their projects on a loan basis using the GEFA fund.

But to do that, state law has to be changed to allow the GEFA money to flow back to the state.

The bill that was amended Monday in the Senate committee simply changes GEFA’s name to the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The amendment allowing the transfer of money was …

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House recognizes UGA’s Chance Veazey

The Georgia House paid tribute Wednesday to Chance Veazey, the University of Georgia freshman second baseman who was paralyzed from the waist down from a scooter accident last fall.

Veazey thanked the many people who have supported him,  particularly UGA baseball coach David Perno and baseball athletic trainer Mike Dillon.

“They haven’t left my side since the accident,” Veazey said. “I love them both.”

Veazey has been paralyzed from the waist down since his motor scooter collided with a car Oct. 28 in Athens.

His friends have set up a fund to help offset medical costs.

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