AS THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE RECONVENES TODAY, THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN THE STATE IS AT STAKE, WHICH MEANS THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA IS AT STAKE.
I was interested in what Cobb County Rep. Rob Teilhet had to say about his bid to become Georgia’s next attorney general, but I was just as interested to what he said to me before his talk to Muscogee County Democrats, because we discussed the financial disaster facing public education, Medicaid, and other state services.
These are issues he still must deal with because he still represents the people of his area of Cobb County, and, actually, he and all legislators represent all Georgians. The problem, he says, is that the proposed budget is about $20 billion dollars, about $2 billion more than revenues will provide, so something has to give.
The legislature can cut the education budget even more, including $300 million for higher education, which will mean teacher layoffs, fewer courses being offered, and larger class sizes for the teachers that remain. There is talk that the elementary and high school year will be shortened from 170 to 160 days.
Rep. Teilhet tells me that the legislature is considering cutting state Medicaid payments by 17 percent. He says if that happens, some hospitals will probably close, especially the smaller ones in rural areas.
It appears that, even though it’s a hard thing to do, taxes are going to have to be raised, I suggested. He agreed, pointing out that a bed tax for hospitals could keep the Medicaid program at its current level. That’s what Governor Perdue is suggesting. A $1 cigarette tax is something that Georgians appear to be willing to support he said. That would raise $400 million, enough to prevent destroying higher education.
Now, back to the reason he came to Columbus, to get local Democrats to support his bid for the attorney general job. He promises to be tough on crime – it seems candidates for attorney general always promise that – and tough on those who prey on the state’s consumers. He also wants a stronger ethics law. I pointed out that’s a legislative matter. He said that the attorney general can also recommend legislation to the General Assembly. He also said that, as attorney general, he would prosecute violators of that law.