A short, early checklist for Georgia in 2010

As of Monday, Atlanta will have a new mayor. Later this month, a new speaker will preside over the Georgia House of Representatives. By year’s end, Georgians will have elected a new governor and perhaps several other statewide officials.

So, 2010 will be a year in which a time of political transition coincides with a need for strong leadership in several critical policy areas.

This could go really well. Or really badly.

Nah, humbug. Let’s open the year with some optimism — and a checklist for where we hope to be 12 months from now.

Atlanta’s new mayor, Kasim Reed, takes office under more daunting circumstances than did the now-departing Shirley Franklin. The economy is worse, the budget bleaker due to pension obligations that tripled this decade into a nine-digit expense.

For the issues held over from the Franklin administration, we get one year of Peter Aman. The Bain & Company partner, who over the past seven years literally wrote the book on how the city should move forward, agreed to be the city’s chief operating officer for 2010.

How much progress he makes will be in large part a function of how far Reed will push the city’s work force and other entrenched interests.

Reed focused his campaign on public safety, setting an ambitious goal to hire 750 new police officers within four years.

Given that this is a medium-term project, Reed has time first to institute a new pension plan for all officers hired going forward. Today’s offerings are so generous that the city has laid off some workers so that it could pay for its obligations to others. There’s no real security, present or future, for anyone under that arrangement.

Creating a different plan for new hires is essential if Reed is to bring in new officers without letting others go. For the same reasons, the new mayor needs to begin negotiating different retirement benefits — for future, not past, accrual — for existing workers.

Reed’s former colleagues in the General Assembly have plenty on their plates, too.

House Republicans hint that, before taking on a budget that’s sure to be contentious, they will propose a transportation bill. A thoughtful plan has been elusive so far, but putting one forth is essential if the party is to show it’s serious about governing.

When legislators do tackle the budget, the test will not be whether they can balance the books but how they do so. David Ralston, the presumptive next speaker, says tax increases are off the table — a good thing given the state’s fragile economic condition.

That leaves spending cuts. So far, the state has sliced some $3 billion from the budget in the past couple of years, in large part by making across-the-board cuts. We need a structural approach, perhaps shuttering some agencies altogether.

Along those lines, Rep. Charlice Byrd (R., Woodstock) has proposed a regular “sunset review” to determine which state offices should be kept, closed or combined with others. The idea has saved Texas taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and it’s long overdue here. It can’t be in place by 2010, but lawmakers can pass it for the future and act in its spirit now.

Finally, with Gov. Sonny Perdue and his counterparts in Alabama and Florida all entering their final year in office, 2010 may offer the best timing for a truce in the water wars.

If this checklist doesn’t remain just a wish list, we’ll all be happier come 2011.

13 comments Add your comment

Chris Broe

January 1st, 2010
11:22 pm

It’s time 4…Name That Moron! Yes, it’s name that moron, where contestants try to name the moron who’s posting to himself by reading as few comments as possible.

Sample game: “I can name the moron posting to himself in five comments.” (I can name the moron who’s posting to himself in four comments.) “I can name the moron who’s posting to himself in three comments.”

Name that moron.

See? It’s just like the name game song, the instructions are virtually identical.

Wanna play?

Peter

January 2nd, 2010
12:16 am

Pray for rain……no new reservoirs coming !

joan

January 2nd, 2010
5:42 am

Government workers should stop getting the perks they have become accustomed to. Most private industry has long since given up pension plans, and probably will reduce health care benefits. So, why is it that government workers make more money on average, get longer vacations–that they can actually take without losing their jobs–and better health care coverage than the private sector? It is the private sector paying for them after all.

Michael H. Smith

January 2nd, 2010
7:10 am

Finally, with Gov. Sonny Perdue and his counterparts in Alabama and Florida all entering their final year in office, 2010 may offer the best timing for a truce in the water wars.

On this one Kyle, your optimism exceeds the limits of a very wildly imagination. Alabama and Florida will grab every drop of water that falls on Georgia soil by Federal hook or by Federal crook. Best start now by picking the next low hanging fruit (reservoirs) and move as expeditiously as possible to the top (desalination via cogeneration of the nuclear kind).

Transportation has too many special interests in play. What should be done, won’t be done. Despite any very wildly optimistic hopes of Ralston making affable efforts with the railroads for a statewide public-private rapid rail system, under state authority.

@@

January 2nd, 2010
8:27 am

Kyle, following your lead (wishful thinking) it looks like Democrat Reed will be forced to adopt some fiscally conservative principles when it comes to government “perks”.

On the other hand, Republicans will have to embrace more progressive ideas when it comes to transportation.

A redistribution of ideas?

jconservative

January 2nd, 2010
8:43 am

No tax increases! Cut spending! This is really pretty simple but the General Assembly will make it really difficult or impossible.

Cut spending. Vacations for State employees cut to 2 weeks max. Lay off State employees, every agency by an across the board percentage (I will be happy to serve on a citizens recommendation board for free). Cut salaries of legislators, cut the per diem for legislators.

I can keep going but in the interest of space………..

Road Scholar

January 2nd, 2010
9:16 am

Major Garlique; Lots of Vodka!

Joan: Why? They have to put up with whiners like you!

jconservative: Have you cut down your vacation time? State government has a low perk rate by % of salary, lower than the private sector! But I think the legislators should forgo any salary including retro pay raises until the states economy gets better. They all have other jobs to support their families. And under the present ethics rules they get enough kick backs!

Kyle, you forgot the need for stronger legislative ethics rules with a ethics committee with bite! How soon you forgot Richardson and the protective inner circle!

Democrats are Corrupt, Repukes are Lying Scum

January 2nd, 2010
9:32 am

The existing city workers extorted major pension gifts from a corrupt and cowardly city council and mayor. If the new mayor has any guts at all, he will fire ALL existing workers, thus freezing their bloated pensions at this point in time. New hires and rehires should come in at a much reduced pay rate and pension rate, and that means ALL new hires and rehires. Otherwise, the city should declare bankruptcy, and let the courts dissolve any and all pension obligations. I suspect bankruptcy is in the city’s future, regardless.

Road Scholar

January 2nd, 2010
9:39 am

Oh yeah Kyle, also a law and accounting proceedure for all special fees that are collected to be spent on a specific purpose. Right now they can not delegate each fee revenue to the specific account. The new “super speeder” law, which is suppose to fund the state’s trauma fund, is to collect fees; let’s make sure they get to that program!

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 2nd, 2010
12:53 pm

Along those lines, Rep. Charlice Byrd (R., Woodstock) has proposed a regular “sunset review” to determine which state offices should be kept, closed or combined with others.

That proposal has come up off and on for the last 30 or so years. I’ve yet to see anything done about it.

A while back I was reading a proposal, and I wish I remembered where I read it, to completely change the way the state does it’s budget. Rather than set the budget for the next year on projected revenues which may or may not come in, this proposal was to budget to spend revenues that were collected the previous year. This would give them a concrete number for the dollars they had to spend and take out the volatility of downturns in the economy. Granted, it would take 10-15 to transition fully to that sort of system but I think it makes a lot more sense than the way things are done now.

Of course, if you have a concrete number of dollars it makes it harder to play games with revenue projections and the powers that be sure wouldn’t like that.

Horrible Horrace

January 4th, 2010
9:01 am

Kasimee will be just as ignorant and arrogant as Shirley, perhaps even more so.

Horrible Horrace

January 4th, 2010
9:03 am

Speakin of the StupidSpeeder law. Be sure to keep it just at 84 mph and keep the coffers dry!!

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

January 4th, 2010
9:49 am

Cut state parks back to weekend-only operations for two years. Increase layoffs and supplement the state workforce with inmate labor. Eliminate the “Go Fish Georgia” program. Shut down the LARP program for four years. Eliminate the Georgia State Patrol and GBI. Every inch of Georgia is already covered by law enforcement. Cut all state agencies to a four-day work week for two years. Cut Legislators’ pay and per diem by 25-percent.