“I still think money, the budget issues,” said state Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, about the 2010 priorities. “Transportation, education and now I think ethics will be an issue for us as well.”
He said the state does not have as much money as it did last year, so dealing with the budget will be difficult.
Douglas then shifted the discussion to transportation.
“I think you’ll find, though, that the House and Senate are going to get along better, to work together better, with the new leadership in the House,” he said.
This will be a definite improvement in the transportation field, where disagreements between the House and Senate have stalled the creation of a new funding mechanism.
Douglas said he supports a regional approach rather than a statewide sales tax, which he said would be an unnecessary burden on residents.
In addition to education, Douglas said the recent ethical problems at the Capitol will need to be addressed in some way, so that the legislators meet expected ethical standards.
“The budget, number one, definitely,” said state. Rep. John Yates, R-Griffin. “It’s the only thing by law we must pass before we go home.”
He said transportation is another priority. Under the current state Constitution, fuel- and tire-tax monies must be used only on roads and bridges, a provision some seek to change as it becomes more impractical to build more roads in dense areas like Atlanta.
The proposed transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will also be a big issue. The measure — a constitutional amendment — did not pass in previous years due to disagreement between the House, which largely supported a statewide approach, and the Senate, which wanted a regional approach.
“I would be for either one,” he said.
Another issue is water. He criticized the federal court for denying Georgia drinking water from Lake Lanier.
“How could you let millions of people starve to death, go without water?” he asked.
He said the General Assembly could vote to establish additional reservoirs in North Georgia, although the exact relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers needs to be worked out. He said current law does not permit transfers from river basins, something he supports changing.
Yates also expressed his concern about the federal health-care reform, which he said would deprive states of billions in Medicare and Medicaid monies. The states would have to make up the loss, impacting funding elsewhere.
“The largest priority that we’ll face will again be the budget,” said state Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin.
He said revenues through November are down 15 to 16 percent from 2008. Less revenue means more cuts.
“We will get through it,” he said. “We will get through it without raising taxes. Georgia will live within its means.”
He said getting a funding mechanism to pay for transportation improvements will be an issue this year, as will dealing with the stat water situation.
As of press time, state Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, could not be reached for comment.