RINCON — Politicians talk a lot about a lot of things and Rep. Jon Burns broached as many subjects as he could during his allotted time during Thursday's Rotary Club of Effingham County meeting
Burns, the guest speaker and a former Rotarian, opened his remarks by thanking club members for their humanitarian work locally, nationally and around the world.
The House majority leader quickly turned his attention to upcoming elections and the recently completed 2018 legislative session.
"I'd like to remind y'all that this is Governor (Nathan) Deal's last year," Burns said. "You are starting to see the evidence of that with the advertisements on TV for those folks who are running (to succeed him). What an honor it has been to serve with Governor Deal and to be a Georgian under the leadership of Governor Deal ..."
Burns reminded the audience of Deal's Effingham County connection. He is a descendant of the Salzburgers, Georgia's original settlers.
A Republican, Burns said his party is set to lose a dozen House committee chairmen to retirement this year.
"We have a strong bench but that is a lot of institutional knowledge for us that is going out the door," he said.
Burns said the retirements are due to a variety of reasons, including redistricting, age and a desire to spend more family time.
"We're sad to be losing all those folks," Burns said.
"It's going to be hard to replace some of them but, like I said, we have a strong bench and have worked really hard to incorporate everyone into the leadership of the House."
When he turned his focus to the legislative session, Burns immediately targeted the state budget — a subject he frequently cedes to Sen. Jack Hill during political forums. Hill is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"Since Jack isn't here, I can talk about the budget," Burns joked. "I can't talk about it when he's here."
Despite his self-deprecating humor, Burns plays a key role in the development of Georgia's budget.
"The only thing we are mandated by our (state) constitution to do is pass a balanced budget," he said. "Everything we do feeds off the budget. One of my jobs as (House) majority leader is to work with the majority leader of the Senate to create a schedule to guide us through the 40 days of the session."
Burns said Georgia's budget is $25 billion and the state maintains a AAA bond rating.
"The state is doing well and we continue to build our rainy day fund," he said. "There are certain things that were really important for us — of course, as always, education, K through 12 and higher ed. It gets about half the money we collect in this state."
Burns was pleased to announce that $167 million state school systems lost to austerity cuts have been restored. He also said Georgia's teacher retirement system is sound.
See the April 25 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.