Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and his Republican challenger, chamber executive Brandon Beach, met in a debate up in Milton last night, sponsored by the North Fulton & Friends Tea Party.
Yours truly served as one of two moderators. For the record, the time needed to drive the 40 miles from the state Capitol was one hour, 55 minutes. My partner was former secretary of state Karen Handel, who – should she ever give up on politics – will make a fine TV news anchor.
Topics included the transportation sales tax, ethics, and a new Milton County. Both men support the latter. But stark differences showed up when it came to education and gaming.
Atlanta developer Dan O’Leary wants to harness the Georgia Lottery as the engine to drive a vast entertainment and gaming complex in Gwinnett County. We asked the candidates what they thought about the idea. Said Rogers:
”If people earn money, and they want to spend it in a way that doesn’t violate anybody else’s rights, it’s none of my business. So if somebody wants to come in and make that development, and the free market can continue to support it, then let the free market continue to support it. The fact of the matter is, you can go to any casino that’s located on the periphery of the state of Georgia, and you drive into their parking lot, what you’ll find are all sorts of vehicles that have Georgia tags on them…
“Now I think the state is going along fairly well without it. But government shouldn’t be there telling everybody how to live their lives in all those aspects. If you have a developer that can take what’s already in place – the lottery system – and expand it, and have a free market system that produces more money for the HOPE scholarship, more money for pre-K, that’s up to the market to determine.”
”I don’t think we need to have video gaming. I’m not against gambling, but I don’t think we need to have that in our state. If we are going to have gambling, I think we need to have full gambling – blackjack and craps. I don’t gamble, but I think video gambling preys on a sector of our society that can least afford to be there. “
The GOP primary ballot will ask voters whether they support casino gambling in Georgia.
“I’ll vote no,” said Beach.
“I’ll vote yes,” said Rogers.
If you’re of a certain age, the answer by the No. 2 leader of the Senate is evidence of a stunning cultural shift. Twenty years ago, an endorsement of casino gaming would have marked the end of a political career. Today, it’s just part of the mix.
Fueling Beach’s candidacy is the fight over charter schools. Beach opposes the November ballot issue that would restore the state’s authority to license charter schools over the objections of a local school system. Rogers endorses that – and more. Rogers favors an immediate, statewide conversion to a system of school vouchers. Said the candidate:
”How quickly should we do it? Yesterday. The consequences will be, we will finally have a market-based system, where the best educating schools in the system deliver a product to children and parents that they want, that they desire, that they will be involved with – and not a system that says because you live at 123 Elm Street, you must go to school over here. That’s craziness. That doesn’t work. No one would ever set something up like that in the private sector. But the fact of the matter is, this is in complete accordance with the Republican national platform….”
”We need to replicate schools around the state that are like north Fulton and Cherokee. We have good schools here, and it’s because we have parental involvement. Both of my kids attended public school, Milton High School. My wife was an educator at Milton High School. We have good schools because the parents demand it, and that’s wrong in Clayton County. They don’t have the parents demanding it….We don’t need vouchers. We need good public education with parental involvement. Each kid gets an $8,000 allotment per student. So they’re getting money to get educated in a public school. We just need to make our public schools good.”
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will speak at a national convention of the NAACP in Houston, Texas, today. Here’s a paragraph from the speech he intends to deliver:
”I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart, and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president. I want you to know that if I did not believe that my policies and my leadership would help families of color — and families of any color — more than the policies and leadership of President Obama, I would not be running for president.”
Just as the tea party movement was getting underway three years ago, the Washington Post says this was happening:
Americans paid the lowest tax rates in 30 years to the federal government in 2009, in part because of tax cuts President Obama sought to combat the Great Recession, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.
A sharp decline in income — especially among the wealthiest Americans, who pay the highest tax rates — also played a role, according to the report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Household income fell 12 percent on average from 2007 to 2009, with income among the top 1 percent of earners decreasing by more than a third.
In a speech pushing the transportation sales tax, the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Transportation predicted Tuesday that federal cash for roads is about to plummet.
Congress is already padding revenue from the federal tax on gasoline, Todd Long said. The Gainesville Times explains:
“So, how do they do that? They’re taking money out of the general fund in Washington to help fund transportation, allowing us to stay at this artificial level,” Long said.
“If Congress lives within its means — and you know that most people running for Congress, around here at least, are saying (that) — there’s this general attitude that eventually they’re going to say, ‘Whatever the gas tax brings in is what we’re going to spend on transportation,’” he said.
If that happens, in 2015, Georgia “will probably see a 25 to 30 percent decrease” in transportation funding.
Speaker David Ralston says campaign funds are being used to fuel a statewide fly-around by House Republican leaders, which ends today. From Walter Jones of the Morris News Service:
“There’s not one dime of taxpayer money being involved with this campaign,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. His campaign is paying part of the cost, with the Republican Caucus campaign war chest picking up the rest.
My AJC colleague Ty Tagami says the DeKalb County School District has revised its policy on immigrants:
The new policy, approved by the school board Monday, says officials “shall not inquire” about the legal status of immigrants and non-visa holders. The old policy defined “foreign” students, but did not address legal status.
Even now, several dozen Republican state lawmakers are rushing to their drafting tables to meet this thrown gauntlet.
The AJC’s Politifact Georgia today takes a look at Republican claims that President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul amounts to the largest tax increase in American history.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider