ATLANTA — Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston turned the tables on Effingham Day at the Capitol participants.
After he received enthusiastic applause while stepping to the podium in the James H. “Sloppy” Floyd Building on Feb. 11, he lauded the crowd of nearly 100 Effingham County residents.
“Thank all of you for coming up here,” Ralston said. “What a great group of people! I know that you have left your businesses, homes and schools, and come up here to spend the day, and then you get here and we are not in session.”
The General Assembly was in the midst of break necessitated by Gov. Brian Kemp, who ordered sweeping budget cuts.
Ralston said, “Frankly, it was my view — on the House side — that we needed to get all the information we could to make intelligent and informed decisions when we are making decisions that impact people’s lives. That’s what budget decisions do, so I was not of a mood to rush through a $28 billion spending plan, so we hit the pause button last week to give the Appropriations Committee in the House some additional time to drill down into the amended budget, and that’s what they are doing. They started (Feb. 6) and they are still over there today working on it.
“We will get a budget some time after President’s Day (Feb. 17) next week.”
The speaker reminded that crowd that passing a balanced budget is the only thing the General Assembly is required to do each year.
“We have managed to do that in a responsible, conservative manner under the leadership of people like (Rep.) Jon Burns, (Rep.) Bill Hitchens and (Sen.) Jack Hill, while retaining our AAA bond rating,” Ralston said.
Only about a dozen states can match the state’s high credit rating.
“That’s something that Georgians should be very, very proud of because that means if we borrow money for a capital project we are paying almost zero interest. That’s a big deal,” Ralston said.
The speaker also expressed pride in the rural development initiatives launched in the House.
“I am a proud product of rural Georgia. I live in the country and I am proud of it,” the Blue Ridge resident said.
Ralston noted that many of his fellow legislators feel like their part of the state have been left out of the state’s economic recovery since the 2008 crash.
“Back in 2017, we developed the House Rural Development Council and charged it with the job of going around the state and interacting with local government leaders, business people, educators, civic leaders — everybody,” that had any ideas on what we could do as a state to incentive job growth in rural Georgia because I believe what kind of job you get shouldn’t depend on your ZIP code,,” he said. “We hade some strides in that area.”
The legislature has removed some barriers to broadband access throughout the state, Ralston said.
“I want to thank you again for your interest in state government,” the speaker said while closing his remarks. “I know (Burns, Hitchens and Hill) are very , very responsive to their community and are very passionate advocates for their community.
“They are friends of mine and they do a great job. They just reflect well on you and that’s kind of the bottom line. You can be very proud of them and I know they will be very glad to hear from you.”