Your morning jolt: House speaker says ‘everything’ is on the budget table

Thusday’s column, posted here, is about the search by state lawmakers for that budgetary sweet spot – the balance between the government we need, and the government we’re willing to pay for.

House Speaker David Ralston expounded on that same topic in an interview with Denis O’Hayer with WABE (90.1 FM), posted here. Said Ralston:

“We resolved with the Senate last week that everything is on the table. It is on the table. Certainly some have mentioned the issue of additional fees to compensate at this time.

“I’ve said before, I’ll continue to say again, I don’t think raising taxes is the way out of an economic downturn. But again, what I think is important during this week and next week…is that we ask ourselves, we ask those we represent, ‘How deep do you want the cuts to be? What are you willing to sacrifice?’”

The House speaker said he was encouraging lawmakers to have conversations with voters, and to monitor their e-mail. He continued:

“I think everything has to be on the table. We’re in unprecedented times. Bumper-sticker solutions don’t apply. Short sound-bite answers don’t apply. Frankly, as a state government, we’re looking at being in this situation for another two years at a minimum.”

O’Hayer asked Ralston if “everything” included a cigarette tax. Replied Ralston:

“I said everything.”

On that same topic, we’re told that House members were inundated with phone calls generated by Washington tobacco interests on Wednesday, in opposition to HB 39, which calls for that increase in the cigarette tax. The phone calls came from across the country – automated calls that switched the recipient to the state Capitol if they pushed the right buttons.

Democrats plan a 2:30 p.m. presser at the state Capitol to address the topic of new taxes.

Ken Hodges, one of two Democratic candidates for attorney general, has picked up another impressive endorsement, this time from DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown.

“I’ve worked with Ken firsthand on prosecuting public corruption. He’s a veteran of the courtroom. His record of working with state law enforcement and getting results is impeccable,” Brown is quoted as saying in a campaign press release.

Brown and Hodges first met when Hodges served as co-counsel in the prosecution stemming from the assassination of Sidney Dorsey, Brown’s predecessor as sheriff.

State Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna), the other Democratic candidate for AG, was recently endorsed by IBEW Local Union 613, affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Also impressive.

On the heels of its poll in the governor’s race this week, Rasmussen Reports has dropped more food for thought, this time about U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson:

The first Rasmussen Reports Election 2010 telephone survey of the Georgia Senate race finds Isakson earning 49% of the vote against an unnamed generic Democratic candidate who picks up the support of 36% of likely voters. Given that match-up, four percent (4%) like some other candidate, and 12% are undecided.

Rasmussen Reports chose to pit Isakson against a generic candidate because there is as yet no major Democratic challenger in the Georgia Senate race. But it is significant to note that any incumbent who polls at less than 50% at this stage of the campaign is considered potentially vulnerable.

In a conversation last week, one ranking Democrat at the Capitol was asked whether his party would mount a significant challenge to Isakson. The reply was interesting. In this climate, with a governor’s race within reach, he asked, why nationalize the November vote?

A few months early, the Republican party has designated former Gov. Roy Barnes as the winner of the Democratic party. The state GOP has established a new Web site dubbed www.noroyalty.org. No Roy-alty. Get it?

The site features Barnes’ 2008 association with former Democratic presidential candidate and all-around pariah John Edwards. It also brings back King Rat, the costumed rodent used by Sonny Perdue in his 2002 overthrow. And a mug of Bobby Kahn, the Democrat that Republicans most love to hate.

The timing is perfect. Here we’ve got a governor who is trying to consolidate the power of the executive branch in unprecedented fashion, by launching an attempt to turn four elected constitutional positions into appointed – no, wait. Wrong party.

Former state Rep. Tom Bordeaux, the Democrat from Savannah, traveled for a short trip to New York this month — for brain surgery.

Doctors discovered an unruptured aneurysm in his brain and former House judiciary chairman quickly researched the issue and made the decision to travel to the Big Apple, according to my AJC colleague Bill Torpy.

Bordeaux said a good number of people have such a condition, “but you don’t normally know about it until you’re falling, a foot from the floor.”

The six-hour operation was successful and the former head of the House Judiciary Committee sounded as sharp as ever in an interview Wednesday.

“I was literally walking the streets of Manhattan with my wife going to dinner 38 hours later,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect, if I’d be drooling or what.”

He said doctors sawed a crescent-shaped chunk of his skull near his hairline and put an alligator clip on his brain. He said the scar is not that noticeable and people often tell him, “There’s something different about you.” And they point to the facial hair he’s grown.

Bordeaux said the medical bills have run about $135,000, although most have been paid by the state-issued insurance he received as a 16-year legislator. He retired from the General Assembly in 2006.

He was asked to ease back from legal work but said he returned not long after returning home.

The Tweet of the morning comes from Erick Erickson:

By the way, have I ever mentioned that my private mission statement for RedState is “blow shtuff up”? Cause that’s what we do.

East Georgia has launched a rebellion against a state icon. This from the Associated Press this morning:

An Augusta group is organizing a movement to try to change the Georgia state bird to the chicken.

The Flip the Birds Campaign aims to change the state bird to the Cornish chicken. Group leaders say the chicken should be the state bird to honor the poultry industry which it says contributes billions to Georgia’s economy.

The campaign is gaining support.

Richard King, whose Maryland Fried Chicken restaurant sells 7000 pieces of chicken each week, agrees the chicken is better known than the current state bird, the brown thrasher.

The brown thrasher was recognized as Georgia’s state bird in 1928 but wasn’t officially designated until 1970.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

23 comments Add your comment

deegee

February 25th, 2010
9:24 am

It is amazing how differently Washington legislators behave in the face of a budget crisis than our State legislators who are legally required to balance the state budget. Raising taxes or cutting expenses (jobs & salaries)? What a dilemma. Let’s see how much our fiscally conservative Georgians really like smaller government.

Mike

February 25th, 2010
9:25 am

Isakson below 50% is why Georgia needs Jane Kidd to run for US Senate!! http://www.draftjanekidd.com – sign the petition and help get Jane on the ballot!!

Cutty

February 25th, 2010
9:28 am

These ‘legislators’ just don’t want to raise taxes in an election year. So they’ll disguise new taxes as ‘fees’ and ‘rate hikes’, which may fool the uneducated but its raising taxes nonetheless.

donald

February 25th, 2010
9:28 am

way to go hodges! sheriff brown is HUGE i mean HUGE endorsement!

Athens local

February 25th, 2010
10:25 am

So noted economist David Ralston doesn’t think raising taxes is a way out of an economic down turn? Man, glad we have such well educated individuals like him up there running our state budget.

Here’s what I’m willing to sacrifice David (and it seems like you’re willing to sacrifice it too) fire every college professor and grade school teacher in the state. Slash $385 million from the USG budget and totally sink the concept of higher education in this state. Furlough every teacher from high school on down.

While your at it, throw out the child labor laws and cut industrial taxes more so we can get some factories in here to employ these kids that a’int got to go to school no more. That’ll pull us out of an economic downturn.

Why do we need to educate our kids when the only important thing they need to know is that tax cuts solve everything?

Bart

February 25th, 2010
10:53 am

For the past few years, Republican legislators have passed and Perdue has signed dozens of special interest tax breaks requested by lobbyists. Basically, anyone who had the money to hire a team of lobbyists could get a tax exemption. The assorted tax breaks, legislators assured us, would create thousands of new jobs for Georgians. But they didn’t. Even with all of these exemptions, the state’s unemployment rate has been higher than the national jobless rate for 25 of the last 26 months, according to Labor Department figures. This conglomeration of tax breaks now drains an estimated $1.5 billion or so from the state treasury each year. This isn’t a huge problem as long as the economy keeps growing, but one thing we know is that recessions will occur from time to time. When the current recession came along, Georgia suddenly found itself in a deep revenue hole that is getting deeper all the time. It is time to start rolling back some of those tax breaks that lawmakers have so generously given to our corporate citizens.

Unfortunately what will happen is that education, health, and many “safety net” programs will take the hit. Perdue and his Republican cronies have just about ruined public education, and they seem intent on destroying it altogether.

small gov= small minds

February 25th, 2010
11:08 am

I hope we have finally gotten to the point where these small government advocates will have the nerve to stand up and say exactly which services will be cut. Every state program has a constituency, therefore there is political risk in cutting even the most inane program. Man up on program cuts or do what is necessary to increase revenues.

n

February 25th, 2010
11:21 am

Now our fearless leaders are going after the state parks and anyone who opposes destroying their natural beauty by clearcutting–under the guise of “forest management.” http://www.moultrieobserver.com/archivesearch/images_sizedimage_050001334/resources_photoview
Who needs hundred year old forests, serenity, wilderness and natural beauty anyhoo? It’s all about revenue enhancement. After our smart new DNR guys and his lackeys cut all the trees maybe he’ll be inspired by all that empty vacant land to privatize the state parks by giving them to bigwig campaign donors to turn into industrial “parks”
But hands off those bazillion tax breaks given to the banker/businessmen/contractor politicians and their insider pals.
Cut the parks, not the tax breaks.

this is a joke

February 25th, 2010
11:35 am

Many years ago, a member of the Georgia congressional delegation took on the Kaolin industry for ripping off middle Georgia’s land and property owners. The Kaolin industry pays NO TAXES to the State of Georgia because of their lobbying efforts. Why has no one looked into these billion dollar corporations to pay taxes to the State. Why are we furloughing teachers when some foreign corporations are not paying anything to the State. The AJC did an expose back in 2003 exposing the whole industry (Georgia is the second leading mining industry for Kaolin in the WORLD) yet no one has done anything about this travesty.

Ticked Off

February 25th, 2010
11:36 am

Chicken Indeed…..Leave it up to someone in Georgia to come up with something like this…..next thing you know someone will be trying to change our Flag…..oh, wait, that’s not a bad idea….as a matter of fact, it’s a great idea…..let’s do it!!!!!!!!!!

Everything’s on the table, uh…..How ’bout getting rid of all the state vehicles, legislator’s expense accounts, the entitlement program and let’s get rid of all those in state government that really aren’t needed…..c’mon you managers, you know who they are. We’re in a tough economic climate Guv, do something brave for a change.

Dougherty County nemesis

February 25th, 2010
11:40 am

Ken Hodges is a person that you can’t trust. Wanted to put an African American teen in jail for 8 to 10 years for first offense and the judge scolded Ken Hodges for even bringing the case to trial wasting taxpayers money. The judge gave the young man probation and he has gone on to college. Of course, Tom Brown is so stupid he did not investigate what Mr. Hodges has been up to since he helped with the Sidney Dorsey case. Aren’t you tired of elected officials endorsing each other. WTF! Who cares whether Tom Brown endorses Ken Hodges. The voters will know the truth. I will not rest until they know everything about “Mr. Go Straight To Jail Hodges”

Road Scholar

February 25th, 2010
12:03 pm

Bart: “This isn’t a huge problem as long as the economy keeps growing,…”

What? Undeserved tax breaks of $1.5 B not a problem?

DK

February 25th, 2010
12:05 pm

People whine about these special tax breaks to the interests, but every time a referendum is placed before the people, they vote for it. WE ARE THE PROBLEM not just the legislature. These tax breaks are given noble sounding names like “Conservation Use” and “Forest Land Protection Act”. They’re really MASSIVE tax breaks to the wealthy land owners and timber companies, even those that are foreign owned. Those who were stupid enough to vote yes (and the rest of us who said no) are left to pick up the check.

A wonderful analogy is this. You go to dinner with a large party of people. At the end of the meal the check is going to be divided equally by the number of people paying the bill. Giving tax exemptions is like everybody at the table choosing who can get up and leave before dividing the check. Understand that when we vote to give tax breaks to others, you’re picking their share. That might be ok when we’re picking up the bill of the widows, children and the poor, but most of these exemptions passed in the last twenty years, be they income tax exemptions, sales tax exemptions, and property tax exemptions, have been give aways to the rich.

Stop voting for these exemptions and start demanding that your elected representatives stop voting for and proposing these tax breaks.

n

February 25th, 2010
12:09 pm

Our state leaders don’t care if there are no state parks (or no trees in the state parks.) They know they have ready access to rich campaign donors’ thousand acre hunting lands. That’s all the “outdoors” they’ll ever see or care about. The rest of us who love the state parks are SOL.

Marlboro Man

February 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

To tax addicts like smokers is evil. If you care, ban the sale of smokes, otherwise tax bibles too and let everyone pay.

Just sayin'

February 25th, 2010
12:35 pm

Ken Hodges is a bad joke. Just look at the prosecution he did as a favor for the Phoebe hospital execs. now Hodges is in court being defended with Georgia taxpayer dollars. He should be disbarred.

Laura

February 25th, 2010
12:56 pm

Go to http://www.draftjanekidd.com and sign the petition! With Isakson’s numbers heading downwards, it is critical for Jane Kidd to step up!!!

donald

February 25th, 2010
12:58 pm

horrible dirty politicians are spreading lies about hodges because they have nothing else to say!
go hodges go!

Robert

February 25th, 2010
2:27 pm

Stop the tax breaks now

Churchill's MOM

February 25th, 2010
4:04 pm

I will NOT vote for the big government, big spending, pro amnesty LIBERAL Johnny the SOCIALIST. He is worse than Saxby because he gives this votes to the LOBBYIST rather than selling them to the highest bidder..

Melissa

February 26th, 2010
9:11 am

Ken Hodges will be a great Attorney General! He is going to win the primary!! His supporters are motivated and he is growing his base in Atlanta in addition to his base in South Georgia. The campaign is really excited and has some great momentum – this endorsement is more proof of that!

DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown isn’t wading in the political rumor mill, and has seen Hodges working hard and doing what is right. Brown and Hodges worked together to put away a corrupt public official – Sidney Dorsey, after he had DeKalb’s elected Sheriff, Derwin Brown asassinated. Brown and Hodges have worked to protect Georgia citizens and will continue to do so. Hodges has a good working and respected relationship with law enforcement officers throughout the state. This will aide him as he works to protect Georgia citizens and laws.

KEN HODGES FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL!!!!

bootney farnsworth

February 26th, 2010
9:42 pm

everything is on the table is a bald faced lie.

Thomas

April 12th, 2010
8:59 pm

As a Democrat I feel embarrassed by Ken Hodges CLEAR VIOLATION of the fourth amendment rights of Mr. Charles Rehberg. As a wistleblower Mr. Rehberg’s personal email communications were obtained using a fraudulent grand jury subpoena.

Mr Rehbergs commendable actions uncovered systematic mismanagement of funds at a Georgia public hospital.

Why Ken Hodges chose to violate the constitution to harass Mr Rehberg is unclear.

Dear Mr Hodges what part of “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” is unclear to you? Reading someones E-mail is CLEARLY AGAINST THE LAW. You should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.