Posts Tagged ‘Seth Harp’

Sen. Seth Harp on 7 Crucial Days for Georgia

April 9, 2010

After publishing remarks from Columbus Democratic Rep. Calvin Smyre’s online report about the upcoming crucial seven last days in this year’s Georgia legislative session in which two state budgets must be adopted, I asked Columbus Republican State Sen. Seth Harp, who is giving up his seat to run for Insurance Commissioner, for his perspective on this year’s enormous  challenge to state lawmakers. 

Sen. Seth Harp, Republican, Dist. 29. Georgia Senate

 

Since the Legislature adopted the budget for the State in 2008 for the 2009 fiscal year, we have seen a huge loss of tax revenue for the state.  Our projected revenue for 2009 was $21.4 Billion.  The actual revenue that the State collected for 2009 is about $16 Billion.  The revenue amount in 2010 fiscal year has continued to shrink to the level of $15 Billion.  Simply put, our funds have shrunk by almost one-third (1/3).  Being the state’s first priority, education is 67% of the total state budget with salaries being 80% of those expenditures.  K-12 and Higher Education have received the smallest cuts.  

For the first time in over 16 months, we saw a slight 1% increase in revenue funds in March 2010.  We are a very long way from recovery. 

We are trying to craft legislation that will generate some relief and prevent making the cuts that will have to occur if we don’t have additional revenue funds. 

The first is the hospital bed fee, that will generate funds to help compensate the doctors and hospitals that treat the indigent.  The fee will generate $128 million, which will go to the Indigent Care Fund.  That amount, which will be matched by Federal Funds at a ratio of 3 to 1, will go directly to indigent care providers and maintain rural healthcare. 

The second is fee increases for State services, such as filing fees for filing court cases.  

These state services fee and the hospital bed fee revenue funds will allow a balanced budget to pass. If these bills don’t pass, then the deep across the board cuts that have received so much attention will have to occur.  

Our Constitution requires a balanced budget.  The “pie in the sky” idea that we will collect $1 billion from sales taxes is just that.  Most of the offenders are no longer in business and have no assets.  The idea that we will solve the shortfall by collecting unpaid sales taxes in 3 months is just dreaming.  The effort to collect these taxes is going on as we speak. 

Instead of playing politics, we MUST work to come up with ideas that allow our State to educate our children, protect our citizens from criminals and grow jobs for Georgians. 

This requires bipartisan support, not pitting one side against the other for political gain for the upcoming elections.

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Senatorial Candidate Josh McKoon’s Solutions to the State Budget Crisis

March 26, 2010
With attorney Ron Mullins out of the Georgia Senate District 29 race, Josh McKoon, former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party, could be the replacement for Sen. Seth Harp, who is running for Georgia Insurance Commissioner, but who is still a state senator and has to deal with the budget crisis at the state capitol. Feeling that the crisis will continue if Josh takes Seth’s seat in the Senate, I decided to find out where he stands on the issue. The online interview follows:

1. How do you feel about cutting $300 million for Georgia’s universities and colleges?

Candidate Josh McKoon and the man he could replace in the Georgia Senate, Sen. Seth Harp (Photo was supplied by the McKoon campaign)

No one feels good about reducing funding for our institutions of higher education or K-12 education for that matter. It does appear that the additional reductions that were being discussed will be less than originally anticipated. It is going to be important as we go forward to continue to make education a top priority in building future budgets.

2. Are there other cuts that could be made instead of draconian cuts in the education budget?

Education needs to be at the top of our budget priority list. I’m not sitting around the table at the budget meetings, so it is difficult to second guess what additional cuts might be made at this time. I do believe that if we start with the proposition that we are going to focus funding on core functions of government instead of personal pork projects that we can identify more money for education.

3. How about the water and transportation problems? They are still very much with us.

We must improve our bargaining position in the water discussions. I plan on working with Republicans statewide to make sure our region has a seat at that table. We also can improve our bargaining position by moving aggressively on conservation measures, increasing our capacity through permitting of new state reservoirs and research of additional ways to bring new capacity online, such as desalination.

Transportation as an issue involves two primary problems, governance and funding. We are in a much better position on the governance side after the adoption of legislation last year to streamline operations at GDOT as well as the welcome move of bringing one of the most experienced legislators on transportation issues, Vance Smith, into the Department as the Commissioner. I have proposed increasing funding for GDOT by adopting legislation that would require revenue generated by the unit tax on motor fuel to be spent on DOT Project List items instead of being put into general appropriation where the revenues may be used for personal pork projects.

4. Would you support a tax hike of some sort?

I am a fiscal conservative. I believe trying to tax your way out of problems causes more problems. We need to focus our spending only on core functions of government and if we prioritize in that fashion we will identify more tax dollars for education, transportation and infrastructure.

5.Is the legislature to blame for not being better prepared to handle this budget crisis? Surely they had to see this coming.

In hindsight, one can always identify other things that could have been done to prepare for a crisis. Unfortunately our legislators did not have the benefit of that hindsight prior to the budget crisis. This is the worst economic slide since the Great Depression. No one could have predicted the extent and nature of these economic conditions. I think it is far more valuable for one seeking to set public policy to focus on the future and how we get out of this mess. Focusing on the core functions of government reduces the need to impose tax liabilities to our citizens. This allows the introduction of tax incentives to stimulate economic activity and get things moving again in the right direction.

6. Are there any statesmen left in the Georgia legislature?

Senator Seth Harp for one. Seth has done a great job of serving our district and I am proud to have his support. Yes I believe there are many good men and women working hard to improve public policy in Georgia.

Ron Mullins Confirms He May Run for District 29

July 7, 2009

The Georgia Senate District 29 race just got interesting.  Ron Mullins is seriously considering a run for it, which means Josh McKoon may not waltz in without a fight.  Richard Hyatt’s Columbus reported that a source told Richard that Ron might run. I called Ron.  

Ron Mullins, Columbus attorney

Ron Mullins, Columbus attorney

Both of them are attorneys.  Josh probably does have a name recognition advantage after all of the media attention he got as chair of the Muscogee Republican Party and his involvement with Common Cause Columbus.  However, Ron is also a well known, respected, and articulate attorney, and could offer an alternative choice.

Ron confirmed to me that he is considering the race and that support he has gotten so far has been good.  If he runs, it will be as a Republican. 29 leans heavily Republican.  

Josh made an interesting comment when his campaign announced he has raised almost $45,000 in the 21 days since he announced for the seat Seth Harp is vacating to run for insurance commissioner. He said he was  “blessed that so many friends have confidence in our effort to bring conservative initiatives back to the State Capitol.”  Bring back conservative initiatives?  We’ve had a Republican dominated state capitol for almost 8 years now.  Conservative initiatives have been missing for all of that time?

By the way, Ron, who is a Harris County Native, city attorney for Pine Mountain,  graduate of Harris County High and the University of Georgia,  says he is a conservative.  I was not in the least surprised. Who, running in a district as conservative as the 29th, would run as anything but a conservative?  It seems that just about all Republican primary races boil down to who can convince the voters he or she is the most conservative.

Josh McKoon: “High speed rail will be the interstate of the 21st century.”

June 18, 2009

One of the great tragedies of the do-nothing Georgia legislature is that it did nothing about a state transportation plan again in the last legislative session.  Nothing in face of a monumental transportation problem, especially in the Atlanta area is incredibly irresponsible, in my book. Nothing means the same old same old in dealing with the problem.  Nothing means continuing to spend hundreds of millions on widening lanes even though that simply is not going to solve the problem, especially on the long haul.

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh McKoon announces for Ga. Sen. Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA, Courtesy: Josh McKoon

Josh McKoon  says that is one of the issues on which he will concentrate if elected to fill Seth Harp’s Georgia Senate District 29 seat, the one Seth Harp is giving up so he can run for state insurance commissioner.  I am glad to hear that Josh plans to squarely face the transportation problem  because he will probably be District 29’s next senator.  29 is a strongly Republican district and Josh got a lot of publicity as chairman of the Muscogee Republican Party, and for his fight as an attorney for the group taking action against the city of Columbus to force it to spend SPLOST money to build a park in back on the new library.  

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Sam Rawls, Josh McKoon, Government Center, Columbus, GA

Josh sent me a few pictures of his announcement kickoff, which, as you can see, I’m using.

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA (Courtesy: John McKoon)

Josh McKoon, Georgia state Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Dist. 29, Government Center, Columbus, GA , Photo Courtesy: Josh McKoon

We’ll get into the insurance commissioner’s race later. There’s a lot I don’t know about it. I’m going to study up on it to decide what to ask about it.  Insurance plays one heck of a role in our lives.  Just look at the health care mess.  We’ll definitely be looking into it.

While, I’m having to work on the insurance commissioner questions,  I don’t have the same problem with the issues that Josh McKoon faces if he gets elected.   We are talking transportation,  water allocation, health care,  energy,  election reform,  to mention a few. 

I decided that I would concentrate on one issue in the upcoming state election one at a time on this blog.  That’s why when I thanked Josh for the pics, I asked hin for his position on transportation.  He said some things that I wanted to hear.  Here is the email he sent me in response to my question.

Josh McKoon: “Thanks for your e-mail.  I said in my speech announcing my candidacy last week that high speed rail transit linking our cities will be the interstate of the 21st century.  We need transportation solutions now and I will be supporting all of our alternate means of transit, including rail.

” Of course roads will continue to be important and funding for road projects will continue to be an issue going forward.  One proposal I have made to insure a steadier and larger revenue stream for all transportation projects is to dedicate the revenues from the unit tax on motor fuel for transportation projects only.  Currently those funds go into general appropriations and can be spent on pork projects.  We need to make sure transportation funds go for transportation needs.

 “We must confront the transportation issue now both as to passenger and cargo traffic.  A robust transportation infrastructure is the key to our continued economic growth and if we continue to rest upon infrastructure investments made in the 1960s and 70s we will see our growth choked off by an inability to move people and goods efficiently around and through our state. 

“Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. 

Regards, 

Josh”

Anybody have any follow-up questions.  If so,just click the “comment” button and ask it.  I’ll make sure Josh gets it.

Wild Hogging It on Opening-Session Eve

January 12, 2009

 

Arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

Muscogee Democrats arriving at GA State Capitol for Wild Hog Dinner

The Georgia Railroad building at Underground Atlanta, a stone’s throw from the Georgia Capitol,  was packed Sunday night, eve of opening day of the 2009 State Legislature, with state officials, representatives and senators, and people like me.   I was there mainly to gather information, but I did make one lobbying point.  I told Rep. Carolyn Hugley that I was disappointed that the transportation plan for the state failed to get through the legislature last year.  She said, “The House passed it, but it failed in the Senate.”  I told her that was a shame and that new thinking is needed,  that the emphasis needs to shift from pouring millions of tons of concrete adding new lanes to highways to developing rail, that rail is the most efficient way to transport massive numbers of people.   She didn’t respond to that point.

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Rep. Carolyn Hugley, GA House District 133, Columbus, GA

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin hosted the Wild Hog Dinner, but it was paid for by “sponsors,” which probably translates to lobbyists. “He didn’t pay for it,”  Carolyn told me.    The barbecue, Brunswick stew, and potato salad were delicious. Nobody, however,  goes to the Wild Hog Dinner just to get some good barbeque – good as it was, it was not as good as Macon Road, Smokey Pig or Country’s in Columbus – no, most people go to network.  And that’s what the affair was all about.

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

GA House Speaker Rep. Glenn Richardson, GA House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calivin Smyre

   I got the above  shot of Georgia House Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Calvin Smyre  of Columbus networking with Republican Rep. Glenn Richardson, Speaker of the Georgia House.  Calvin is a powerhouse in the legislature, serving since 1974.  Like every legislator I talked with, he said the legislature will be totally occupied with the budget crunch. 

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

Sen. Seth Harp, (R) Georgia Senate District 29

State Senator Seth Harp said it was going to be really hard to deal with the pressures that the recession is putting on the state budget, and he doesn’t see it getting any better soon.  Last year state spending was cut more than five percent. “This year it is going to be 10 to 12 percent.”

Deficit spending quite often accompanies a major recession,  but the Georgia constitution prohibits it, and Seth told me,  “We do not have a deficit; we have $1 billion in  a ‘rainy day’ fund that we can tap into if necessary,  though we don’t like to do that because it could adversely affect our AAA bond rating.  Georgia is one of only 6 states that have a AAA rating. ”

Governor Perdue, I read somewhere,  wants to use  state funds to increase improvements in infrastructure to provide jobs and lessen unemployment.  Seth says he’ll have to study that .  He doesn’t want to do anything to hurt the bond rating .

“Aren’t you concerned about umeployment?”  I asked him.

“Of course I am,” he emphatically replied.  “But, there are a number of ways to deal with that.”

“You might go along with the increased infrastructure idea if you determine it’s necessary?”

“Yes.”

All of the Columbus delegation I talked with agreed that many local projects  won’t be funded this year, things like grants to museums. etc.  It’s going to be tough enough not decimating education with more cuts.  Rep. Hugely is very much concerned about that,  emphasizing the important role education plays in the future of the citizens of Georgia, economically and otherwise.  She added,  “The central office hasn’t expressed concern about it.  What we keep getting from that office is that everything is fine.”

“Are you referring to the Superintendent of Education, Kathy Cox?”

“Yes.”

I told a number of legislators that while the budget is of top concern, Georgia is facing critical issues such as transportation and water shortages.  They all agreed but pointed out that money for those programs is part of the budget.  That’s true, but, in my view,  when cuts are considered, the cuts should apply the least to education, transportation, and water shortage solutions.

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

House Minority Leader Rep. DuBose, (D) District 143, and Carol Porter,

Rep. Dupose Porter of Dublin, minority floor leader of the Georgia House  – Carolyn Hugley  is second in command since she is the minority whip –  said in dealing with the budget crisis,  taking money from a home for elderly Georgia military veterans and shifting it to one of Governor Sonny Perdue’s pet projects for his county like  Go Fish  is the kind of thing that has to stop.  Dubose – I know him on a first name basis because he is married to my second-cousin Carol – is expected to announce for governor after this legislative session.  

 I haven’t been to one of those eve-of-opening-session affairs in about 30 years and forgot how much I enjoyed seeing the state’s power players networking intensely.  I have to admit that it was exciting and fun.  There was no formal program and none needed because the real program was raw networking by the state’s top lawmakers.  Almost everyone who is anyone in state government was there.  I didn’t spot Governor Perdue or Columbus State Senator Ed Harbison.