Some of my fondest memories growing up are of vacations my family and I spent at a Georgia state park, camping at Elijah Clark State Park near Lincolnton.
Throughout the years, my family and I have continued this vacation tradition and always look forward to our yearly summer pilgrimage.
Imagine our surprise when we called last year to make a reservation and reached a call center in Maryland. That’s right — to make a reservation for a Georgia state park you have to call Maryland.
If you want to buy a Georgia hunting or fishing license guess where you call? You got it — out of state.
Recently the Georgia Department of Community Health announced a new policy that requires all State Health Benefit Plan retirees and covered dependents to enroll in an insurance plan that offers a huge incentive to use mail order pharmacies located out of state instead of your local retail pharmacy.
In other words, DCH is encouraging and offering incentives for Georgia citizens to send their prescription business out of the state.
What’s going on here? Why are we sending business out of our state when revenues are down and unemployment is up?
Georgia’s main budget revenue sources are income, corporate and sales taxes. Out-of-state workers and companies pay no income tax, no corporate tax and no sales taxes — so why do we send jobs and business out of our state?
In July, Georgia’s unemployment rate topped 10 percent for the second month in a row. The national unemployment rate for July was 9.4 percent, making July the 21st consecutive month in which the state unemployment rate topped the national rate.
According to the Labor Department there were 493,748 unemployed Georgians looking for work in July, which is an increase of 63.6 percent from July 2008.
Recently, Georgia State University’s chief economic forecaster predicted that Georgia’s job losses will continue through 2010 before seeing any significant jobs added in 2011.
While some economists are suggesting that the recession may have bottomed out, many are still concerned that without an increase in jobs, Georgia’s high unemployment rate will continue to have a negative impact on the budget.
After all, job losses not only mean less income, corporate and sales tax revenues going into the budget, it also means more pressure on social programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Peachcare coming out of the budget.
So why would a state such as Georgia, that has worked so hard to be viewed “business friendly,” offering tax credits for major economic development projects as well as other financial incentives for companies to bring jobs to our state, send jobs out of the state?
Some critics point to budget cuts ordered by the governor to be made by department and agency heads as being the problem. Had the Legislature been more involved and a special session been called, this probably would not have happened, they say.
After all, they point out, the Legislature has passed numerous bills to help create and keep jobs in our state and even created the “Made in Georgia” program that promotes goods and products manufactured in Georgia. (http://georgiamadegeorgiagrown.com.)
Regardless of the reason for this oversight, these wrongs need to be righted. We shouldn’t have to call another state to make reservations in a Georgia state park or purchase a Georgia hunting or fishing license. And State Health retirees shouldn’t have to use an out of state mail order pharmacy to get their medications.
Let’s be smart about the cuts we make and keep Georgia tax dollars in Georgia.