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Oxendine makes his pitch for governors seat
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John Oxendine visits with attendees at the Effingham County Republican Party meeting Monday evening. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

How government functions needs to change, John Oxendine told members of the Effingham County Republican Party, and he believes he’s the best candidate to make that happen.

Oxendine, the state insurance commissioner, visited with Effingham GOP members to lay out his gubernatorial campaign platform.  

“It hasn’t gotten a bit smaller and that’s what really bothers me,” he said of state government. “We have a chance to show what Republican governance can mean. Elected officials aren’t the boss. They tend to forget that from time to time.

“Our government has gotten considerably bigger and bigger, and that’s not what we need.”

Oxendine is one of six Republicans running for the nomination to succeed Gov. Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s second four-year term will end in January 2011.

“You can’t fix what you don’t understand. I’ve got 14 1/2, 15 years of experience,” he said. “You’ve got to know how the executive branch works. I’ve been a businessman. I know the difference.”

First elected as insurance commissioner in 1994, Oxendine is the longest-serving Republican holding statewide elected office. In his tenure with the insurance commission, his department has increased its efficiency and reduced its payroll. Insurance commission offices are open until 7 p.m. in order to serve Georgians who may not be able to conduct their business and ask questions during normal working hours, he said.

“We have live people answering the phones — and we don’t say, ‘press 1 for English,’” he said.

During Atlanta’s most recent snow day that shut down most of the city, he said only two of his nearly 300 employees called in to say they couldn’t come to work that day.

“And they apologized,” he said. “My employees aren’t any different from any others, but they are instilled with the concept they are there to serve.”

His agency, Oxendine said, serves more people and has 20 percent fewer employees than it did when he took office.

After graduating with degrees in political science, Greek and Christianity from Mercer University, Oxendine graduated from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law. He served as a student aide to two-term Gov. George Busbee and served on the State Personnel Board under Gov. Joe Frank Harris.

Previous governors have touted themselves as the ones to revamp the state’s Department of Community Health. But nothing has changed, Oxendine said.

“Sonny Perdue said he was going to fix the Department of Community Health,” he said. “It was the same as it was under Gov. (Roy) Barnes. He said he was going to fix it. It was the same as it was under Gov. (Zell) Miller.”

They also have proclaimed themselves as the state’s education governor, yet little has changed there, too, Oxendine told the Effingham GOP members.

“Busbee said he was the education governor in Georgia,” he said. “Then Harris said he was the education governor in Georgia. Then Miller said he was the education governor in Georgia. Then Barnes said he was the education governor. Now Perdue says he’s the education governor. Every one of them has promised to fix education as governor.

“If you don’t start changing government and the way it operates, how can you fix things?”

Oxendine also called for an overhaul of the state’s tax system. A proponent of the fair tax, Oxendine called for the abolition of the state income tax.

“Georgia should not have an income tax. I think it’s un-American,” he said. “Income tax punishes you for producing.”

Though he said he resents property taxes, Oxendine said some communities need it because their sales tax base isn’t enough to fund necessary government operations.

“That’s an issue we have to resolve,” he said. “I would like to abolish a property tax, but I don’t know how feasible it is.”

The former lawyer also said statewide, rather than regional, approaches to Georgia’s water and transportation woes must be approached.

“I believe a regional approach will not work,” Oxendine said. “It will lead to a disaster.”

The key to unlocking Atlanta’s traffic problem is to ease the burden elsewhere in the state, he said. Oxendine called for a new road that follows the path of Highway 27 south from Chattanooga but well west of Atlanta.

“That would bring economic growth to the western part of the state and the port of Savannah isn’t threatened by the traffic in Atlanta,” Oxendine said. “We need to get north and south and east and west and not (have to) come anywhere near Atlanta.”

He also said Atlanta’s traffic woes could have an impact on Savannah’s ports, if shippers’ containers get stuck on the roads there.

“People will start using the port of Mobile if we don’t address traffic in Atlanta,” he said.

A road connecting Columbus to Augusta through Macon also could ease the east-west flow on I-20 through Atlanta, Oxendine said.

He further warned that water isn’t just a north Georgia issue and that if the metro Atlanta area can’t get more water from one resource, it may turn elsewhere.

“They’ll start stealing it from you,” Oxendine said, “and that’s wrong.”

Oxendine also said he’s championed a telemedicine and teleradiology program that brings specialists and a higher level of health care to areas where that doesn’t exist.

“The quality of health care in Georgia depends on where you live,” he said. “That is not right.”