Brother, can you spare a bil­lion?

Whether one agrees with the gov­er­nor’s new red-ink strat­egy or not, one has to be pleased that the gov­er­nor is show­ing signs of life at last, this time to stem an eco­nomic cri­sis of ma­jor pro­por­tions.

The Covington News - - Local news -

Gov. Sonny Per­due de­serves a round of ap­plause for see­ing the light.

Just weeks af­ter warn­ing that Ge­or­gians can’t bor­row their way out of debt, the gov­er­nor an­nounced in gen­eral terms that he now fa­vors in­creas­ing the state debt. Per­due wants state gov­ern­ment to bor­row an un­spec­i­fied sum to stim­u­late the econ­omy and wipe out a loom­ing $1.6 bil­lion state deficit.

The gov­er­nor rea­sons that Ge­or­gia gov­ern­ment en­joys ex­cel­lent credit and in­ter­est rates are low. If we plan to bor­row­big bucks, nowis the time to do it, ac­cord­ing to the cur­rent think­ing in the Gold Dome.

Per­due also met with Pres­i­dent-elect Obama to dis­cuss fed­eral bailout help for states like Ge­or­gia. Now that’s what you call chutz­pah. Ge­or­gia op­posed Obama’s elec­tion, but im­me­di­ately af­ter the elec­tion, Gov. Per­due stands at the front of the line with his palm turned up.

Whether one agrees with the gov­er­nor’s new red-ink strat­egy or not, one has to be pleased that the gov­er­nor is show­ing signs of life at last, this time to stem an eco­nomic cri­sis of ma­jor pro­por­tions.

We can only hope that some of Per­due’s new­found get-upand-go will rub off on the Geor- gia Leg­is­la­ture. Al­though the Gen­eral As­sem­bly granted ev­ery item on big busi­ness’ wish list in its 2008 ses­sion, the Leg­is­la­ture achieved next to noth­ing as far as aid­ing the com­mon­weal. In fact, the ’08 ses­sion may have been one of the worst in re­cent mem­ory, even as ev­ery sign pointed to a ma­jor re­ces­sion headed our way.

Per­due, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle, en­gaged in a run­ning war of words with Speaker Glenn “Romeo” Richardson. Richardson’s No. 1 agenda item — abol­ish­ing all prop­erty taxes in fa­vor of a state-run sales tax — fell flat on its face. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments breathed a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief. If Romeo’s bill had passed, At­lanta would have been in full con­trol of the en­tire state and all its 159 coun­ties.

On the dark side of the ledger, the Gen­eral As­sem­bly re­fused to fund an ex­pan­sion of trauma cen­ters even as it moved to make it OK to carry con­cealed firearms in more pub­lic places. The next leg­isla­tive ses­sion may con­sider an al­ready per­fected bill to al­low adults to pack loaded pis­tols in col­lege class­rooms. How have we sur­vived so long without guns in the lec­ture hall? It’s hard to fig­ure.

Com­ing back to Per­due’s ap­par­ent con­ver­sion to a Keynes- ian res­cue scheme, the gov­er­nor seems to have rec­og­nized that the re­ces­sion is a worse prob­lem than the re­cent drought or the gaso­line short­age. So it is un­likely that he will hop an­other plane for Bei­jing just as his bor­row­ing bill comes up in the Leg­is­la­ture.

Our state needs to is­sue bonds to launch a se­ries of pub­lic works projects rang­ing from build­ing new schools and li­braries to mov­ing a big part of state gov­ern­ment to cen­tral Ge­or­gia to oc­cupy an aban­doned pri­vate col­lege. It also needs to bal­ance its bud­get and ad­dress some of the fol­low­ing is­sues:

• Un­em­ploy­ment in our state has zoomed past the na­tional fig­ure and is headed to­ward 8 per­cent.

• The Peach State is among the top five states in home fore­clo­sures.

• We lead the na­tion in per­capita per­sonal bank­rupt­cies.

• Dozens of our com­mu­nity banks are in trou­ble, with bad loans left over from the real es­tate boom that went bust.

• Sev­eral large cities, in­clud­ing At­lanta, are in se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial trou­ble and are hav­ing dif­fi­culty meet­ing their obli­ga­tions. At­lanta of­fi­cials have re­ceived a cool re­cep­tion — mean­ing no buy­ers seem in­ter­ested — to a bond is­sue to com­plete the big in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal at Harts­field-Jack­son Air­port.

• Ge­or­gia con­tin­ues to face sig­nif­i­cant wa­ter-sup­ply and pol­lu­tion prob­lems. Ri­val Florida’s wa­ter trou­bles seem to get most of the at­ten­tion.

The late Speaker Tom Mur­phy warned against ex­ces­sive bor­row­ing, and in­deed the state main­tains a man­dated ceil­ing for bonded in­debt­ed­ness. That ceil­ing may have to be ad­justed if the Per­due plan re­ceives se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion.

Therein lies still an­other prob­lem. The Leg­is­la­ture is of­ten a year or so be­hind the curve on ad­dress­ing Ge­or­gia’s real needs, to the ex­tent it ad­dresses them at all th­ese days.

Some of our law­mak­ers still rail against il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Don’t they know that the job­skilling re­ces­sion has sent im­mi­grants scurrying back home? Jobs, once filled by mi­grants to the United States, have dried up.

Th­ese are the same law­mak­ers who waged an ex­pen­sive cam­paign to ban gay mar­riages in Ge­or­gia, when such unions were al­ready against the law.

While Per­due is wait­ing in line at the bailout win­dow, our gov­er­nor might use his cell phone to check on an­other bud­ding pro­gram: the one in which cer­tain of­fi­cials can buy and sell leg­isla­tive seats. We need a plan like that in Ge­or­gia, which might raise the qual­ity of Gen­eral As­sem­bly mem­bers. A pi­lot pro­gram is al­ready un­der way in Illi­nois.

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