A visit from the speaker of the Ge­or­gia House

Glenn Richardson ad­dresses Cov­ing­ton Ro­tary

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

Speaker of the Ge­or­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Glenn Richardson was in town yes­ter­day to speak to the Ro­tary Club of Cov­ing­ton about the up­com­ing elec­tion and his plans for the 2009 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

Richardson, the Repub­li­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Pauld­ing County who has served as speaker since 2005, was the guest speaker at Ro­tary’s weekly meet­ing held at The Oaks Golf Course.

Dur­ing his re­marks he out­lined the GOP House mem­ber­ship’s newly de­cided leg­isla­tive plans for 2009. In or­der of pri­or­ity they are prop­erty taxes, trauma care, ed­u­ca­tion and trans­porta­tion.

Richardson said House Repub­li­cans planned to in­tro­duce a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to stem the ris­ing val­ues of real prop­erty, cap­ping them at the rate of inflation or 3 per­cent, whichever is less, per year.

“Prop­erty taxes are ris­ing at a rate greater than the rate of inflation,” he said.

Richardson said some form of res­o­lu­tion to fund trauma care statewide would be in­tro­duced dur­ing the ses­sion.

“I will not tell you yet how we fund that, be­cause I don’t know the an­swer,” he said.

On ed­u­ca­tion, Richardson sug­gested that the House GOP would look to pro­vide more fund­ing for tech­ni­cal classes that could be taught along­side nor­mal high school ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses for those stu­dents that wouldn’t likely at­tend col­lege.

He also pro­posed re­ex­am­in­ing how mem­bers are ap­pointed to the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s board of direc­tors by no longer hav­ing them voted on by leg­is­la­tors but ap­pointed in part by the gov­er­nor.

“I an­tic­i­pate we’ll do all of those very quickly in 2009,” said Richardson of the four pri­or­i­ties.

Healso made time at the beginning of his talk to give a hur­rah for Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee John McCain and to talk about his party’s prospects in Novem­ber.

Partly as a re­sult of an un­der­whelm­ing per­for­mance from the Repub­li­can dom­i­nated Ge­or­gia leg­is­la­ture th­ese past two years and chang­ing na­tional sen­ti­ments, the GOP is fac­ing the loss of five to six seats in the House.

“We’ll re­tain a sig­nif­i­cant Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity in the House,” Richardson pre­dicted.

Richardson also made some broad com­ments re­gard­ing his per­for­mance this past ses­sion. Dur­ing the ses­sion flare-ups be­tween Richardson and Gov. Sonny Per­due and Lt. Casey Ca­gle, all Repub­li­cans, were much pub­li­cized and cul­mi­nated with Richardson killing a trans­porta­tion fund­ing res­o­lu­tion that passed the Se­nate af­ter Ca­gle re­fused to con­sider Richardson’s own al­ter­nate trans­porta­tion bill.

“I learned not to get to far out on leg­is­la­tion with my name on it,” he said, re­fer­ring to his ill-fated GREAT tax plan, which af­ter many rein­car­na­tions died with a whim­per this spring. In its orig­i­nal form, the plan would have elim­i­nated all prop­erty taxes and re­placed them with a wider sales tax.

The steps Richardson has taken since the spring to mend bridges with the gov­er­nor in the face of a chal­lenge from Rep. David Ral­ston for the role of speaker were ev­i­dent on Tues­day when he em­pha­sized the pru­dent fi­nan­cial stew­ard­ship of Per­due who built up the state’s re­serves from vir­tu­ally noth­ing to $1.5 bil­lion, just in time for the re­ces­sion.

“There are some sto­ries about the gov­er­nor and I oc­ca­sion­ally dis­agree­ing. We do,” he said. “By be­ing fis­cally con­ser­va­tive and very sharp… he built Ge­or­gia’s re­serves. There were calls dur­ing the ses­sions, this ses­sion alone by Demo­cratic leaders that we were hoard­ing money and we needed to release it for ed­u­ca­tion. Well, the gov­er­nor didn’t bite. So when the fis­cal year ended this year we had money… and that’s be­cause of the good man­age­ment of Sonny Per­due.”

Richardson did not try to hide the fact that de­spite the state’s re­serves, there would likely be some sig­nif­i­cant cuts in ser­vices.

“We de­cided it’s time to tighten our belts. I am not go­ing to raise taxes. We’re go­ing to cut [ser­vices].”

Heal­soseemed­tovoice sup­port for Per­due’s pro­posal to elim­i­nate the statewide Home­owner Tax Re­lief Grant which re­im­burses lo­cal gov­ern­ments who pro­vide a homestead tax ex­emp­tion. New­ton Coun­ty­was an­tic­i­pat­ing be­ing re­im­bursed for $1.8 mil­lion from the grant for fis­cal year 2009.

“Its mis­sion has been cir­cum­vented,” Richardson said of the grant, which was orig­i­nally in­tended to lower prop­erty taxes. “I will look to­wards ei­ther reguid­ing it to its mis­sion or fig­ur­ing out a way to give home­own­ers re­lief if we look at a way to phase that out over time.”

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Ro­tary: Speaker of the Ge­or­gia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Glenn Richardson speaks dur­ing the Ro­tary Club of Cov­ing­ton meet­ing at The Oaks Golf Course Tues­day.

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