With the next session of the Georgia state legislature still two months away, many of the main topics of discussion have already been set. In fact, the 2008 legislative session is shaping up to be known as the T-session. Taxes, Transportation, Trauma Care and Thirst (as in water) are already set to be the main topics of discussion under the gold dome.
As a result of HR 900 that was introduced during the ’07 session, tax reform continues to be the state’s hottest topic. Referred to as the GREAT (Georgia’s Repeal of Every Ad Valorem Tax) plan, no other issue has been discussed, written about or criticized as much.
While trying to reform a system that has been in effect for over 70 years and was intended to be used in an agricultural economy, proponents of the plan — particularly Speaker Glenn Richardson — have come under great fire for their efforts.
Undeterred, Speaker Richardson and other supporters continue to push the idea of eliminating property taxes and moving to a more appropriate consumption tax. Working under the idea that taxing receipts and the exchange of money — not the ownership of property — makes more sense in today’s service based economy, supporters of the idea continue to move forward.
Meanwhile, opponents of the plan, fearing the loss of local control and having to beg Atlanta for money, have mobilized their efforts and mounted a very impressive counter campaign.
Transportation will be another issue that dominates the political landscape during the upcoming session. With transportation funding woefully lacking in the state, most of the attention will focus on ways to increase budgets for existing and future projects. However, with a recent audit showing the Department of Transportation performing at poor levels and a new commissioner taking office on Jan. 1, controversy may overshadow the real problems.
While some may disagree that the lack of a statewide trauma care system in Georgia will be one of the major issues debated during the next session, no one will disagree that it should be.
With Georgia’s death rate due to trauma currently 20 percent higher than the national average and with trauma care centers in our state losing millions of dollars on an annual basis, funding for this system must be identified.
Currently Grady Hospital, the only level one trauma center in the Atlanta area, is facing a financial crisis that threatens its very existence. Fortunately, much attention is being given to this crisis by state leaders. Hopefully, this will carry over into the session and the appropriate attention will be paid to the need for a statewide trauma system.
The final major issue to be discussed during next year’s T-session is thirst- specifically Atlanta, with its 4 million residents and their need for drinking water.
Currently in the midst of one of the worst drought’s ever, Atlanta’s main source of drinking water, Lake Lanier, is quickly drying up. Crisis management is now in effect and unless immediate relief is found, this could be one of the worst problems to ever face our state.
This situation comes about as the legislature is set to adopt the comprehensive statewide water management plan that has been in the works for the past three years. At risk here is the ability of the Atlanta area to transfer water from other sources such as the Savannah River. This would have a direct impact on South Georgia and likely result in lawsuits from neighboring states.
As if we need any other reason for the ’08 session to be known as the T-session, we can certainly count on one thing — it will be tense.