Responses by Rick Williams, candidate for Ga. House District 73 (Republican Primary)

Tue, 07/01/2008 - 6:21pm
By: rick williams

1. What would you do as a legislator to respond to the growing energy crisis? What will you do to specifically address the plight of families in Georgia as pocketbooks are being stretched to pay for gas, groceries and utility bills?

Answer 1: The only thing the State of Georgia can do in the short term to reduce the pain of the energy crisis, and the price of fuel, is to reduce the state tax on that fuel. We can also provide tax rebates to trucking companies that ship our food and commodities as well as tax rebates to our farmers on the fuel they use to grow our food. These could be temporary in nature until the price of oil is reduced to a designated amount (say below $3.00/gallon).

We can introduce policies that would create tax breaks for companies that allowed some workers to perform their duties at home rather than driving to work. Many folks who are computer based specialists can perform their duties from home and not commute to work saving them time and money as well as saving oil and traffic congestion. We can also introduce a tax break for companies who have employees using mass transit vice driving to work. This encourages mass transit use and saves fuel and reduces pollution.

We can eliminate the sales tax on compact fluorescent light bulbs to encourage everyone to greatly reduce the heat created and reduce the energy used to light our homes. We could simultaneously increase the sales tax on incandescent bulbs to discourage their use or replacement. All of these policies would decrease the cost of energy to our state economy.

The long term solution is to ensure all future energy sources make great use of nuclear and wind power. Again the use of tax incentives to promote their building operation will help reduce the dependence on foreign oil. As for our domestic oil, and current dependency on oil, we should allow ecologically friendly development of off shore drilling and the building of a new oil refinery in the port of Savannah area.

This would have an immediate effect on the speculative price of oil as it indicates future good supplies of oil. It, of course, would not generate additional oil for 5-10 years. We should not encourage the use of natural gas power plants as they drive up the cost of fuel to homeowners. The coal plants are less expensive than nuclear ones, but far more polluting than the other choices, therefore, more coal plants should not be built. Our coal industry can sell its products to China and India.

Additionally we need to develop an economic stimulus package to develop alternative fuel stations for hybrids and electric cars as well as develop bio-fuel processing plants. This would allow the expanded use of these vehicles. Finally, the building of mass transportation systems, that would eliminate tens of thousands of cars off the roads each day is another long term viable energy solution, and reduced oil dependency.

2. Georgia consistently ranks near the bottom in education excellence nationwide. What will you do to correct that problem?

Answer 2: The performance of our education system in Georgia has been terrible. Saying we’re better than Mississippi is not the goal we should be striving for. We are in the bottom 10% of the nation in almost any education statistic. The biggest problem we have is our very low high school graduation rate. According to the Georgia School Board Association our current graduation rate is 72%. That means that 28% are not getting their diplomas. The average high school graduate earns $7000 more per year than a non-graduate. No industry with good paying jobs will come to a county that has a poorly educated workforce.

The non-graduates are much more susceptible to drug use and poverty. The Department of Justice reports that 68% of the prison population does not have a high school diploma. Each prisoner costs the state approximately $20,000/year. Since the average cost of a student in Georgia is $8,400/year, one can see that it is far cheaper to educate our children than have them turn into prisoners (not counting the social value of less prisoners and more folks in the workplace paying taxes). Therefore we should fully fund all our school programs.

Since FY 03 “austerity cuts” have taken $1.5 billion dollars from the Department of Education (DOE). This past legislative session alone took $91 million away in austerity cuts (despite the re-assurances of current legislators that say they added money to education-they added dollars back into even higher cuts). Much of the shortfall then is placed on local school boards and authorities. This then generates the need for local tax increases and or SPLOST initiatives.

This lack of money together with the increased student loads and increased demands for performance of our children on standardized tests, has led to the miserable Criterion Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) scores for our 8th graders.

Over 70% of our children failed the Social Studies test while 40% failed the math tests. It is a fact of life, that when you have less you do less. With less money the DOE was not able to properly create good curriculums for the new testing. It was then not able to adequately test the curriculums and was not able to educate the teachers on how to teach the students the new curriculum.

When I attended the Georgia School Board Association education seminar earlier this month, we prospective legislators were well briefed on the status of Georgia’s education system from A to Z. It was apparent that we must fully fund the DOE in accordance with the formulas established in 1985 when the Quality Basic Education (QBE) was established.

Money is the entering argument to build a solid education system. There are many other things that can be done to improve our graduation rates such as increasing the quantity and quality of our teachers.

One thing that I feel we need to do is establish a program to encourage new teachers (especially in math and science) to enter the field and work in the poorer performing school districts.

I would suggest we offer to pay for their tuition to one of our state universities and in return they will work as teachers in the school districts the DOE feels needs help and work there for at least 4 years. If they leave earlier, they must reimburse a portion of their tuition.

Another idea to shake up the education system is to take the mandated 180 days of school and turn it into a “year round” school which eliminates the 3 month break. The students and teachers would get school for 6 weeks then have a week off and continue that cycle year round. This could be tried on the school systems with the worst performance and see if it helps. It may encourage students to stay in school until graduation. It may also improve the post summer break need to “re-teach” the things children had forgotten by the beginning of the new school year.

Finally, there are a certain percentage of our children who do not want to continue their high school education as it currently stands and want to enter the workplace.

I would suggest we greatly increase the vocational school programs so that we can create a high school diploma for kids who attend a reduced academic schooling but get professionally trained in a wide variety of jobs. We need good carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, hair dressers, health care workers etc.

We can offer tax incentives to businesses to mentor and provide the needed skills and training for these part time students and then ensure that they graduate as fully qualified in their field. This allows them to have the ability to get good paying jobs right out of high school because they already have “experience” and skills.

3. Do Georgia taxpayers pay too little in taxes, about the right amount or too much in taxes? What specifically will you do and what bills will you author to help state taxpayers?

Answer 3: Nobody likes paying taxes! But most people recognize the need for the police and fire departments. Most people appreciate paved roads and good schools (see question #2). Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society. Are we paying too much, too little or just the right amount of taxes?

The answer would be obvious if we could all agree on what services and things we need the government to perform, that we individuals or private corporations cannot do.

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget determines the programs and items to be funded. The tax structure must pay for that budget. Fortunately our state constitution requires a balanced budget and the legislature’s primary role is to approve the annual budget.

We Republicans believe less government is better than more government, and that the least intrusive government is best. We should only make a budget that has needed and required programs and then fully fund them. If we cut taxes we must either cut spending by a similar amount or raise taxes in alternative areas.

I fully support tax reform. The concept started by the Speaker of the House this past session was a very good idea. But it wasn’t fully fleshed out to guarantee the state would be able to get the same revenue in good economic times as in bad. It also had major issues with the state getting revenue then disbursing it to the counties, thereby keeping tax money from the counties.

I fully support the elimination of the ad valorem car tax. I also fully support the idea of keeping property valuations for our senior citizens living on fixed incomes from increasing. I believe the increased use of sales tax and the reduced use of property tax is a good idea.

The concept of eliminating the state income tax is also something I would support as long as we can generate the required revenues from sales taxes or value added taxes. Our farmers need to have property taxes low and their fuel tax low so that they can continue to produce the food we need and avoid losing their farms.

Finally, I fully support the reduction of corporate taxes in an effort to bring in more industry. I saw firsthand in Ireland how that one tax reduction allowed for an explosion in their wealth and industry, and made them the darling of Europe businesses.

4. What makes you the right person to serve the people of Fayette County?

Answer 4: There are many qualified people in this county that would make excellent representatives. However, there are only two candidates for this office and I feel I am the most qualified. If you visit my website ( you can read a biography, and will realize that I consider public service an honor.

I have been in public service all my adult life. I graduated from the USAF Academy, and have a Masters Degree in Management. I spent 23 years as a fighter pilot in the USAF and the Air National Guard, retiring as a Lt. Colonel. I was proud to fly combat missions in my F-16 over Iraq.

For the past 20 years I have been a pilot for Delta Air Lines (the largest employer in this state), serving both as an instructor and as a project manager.

The current project I am involved with is generating $2 million a month in fuel savings for Delta. I am also currently flying the Boeing 757 and 767 all around the world; from India and Africa to Europe, Central and South America, and of course all throughout the USA.

I have seen and done much, and want to bring the knowledge, experience and judgment I have accumulated throughout my career to make good things happen in our government.

5. What is your legislative position on SB 458, charter schools in general and the Clayton County school situation in particular?

Answer 5: In my training session with the Georgia School Board Association, I met with many new prospective members of the Clayton County School Board, as well as other current legislators and numerous education experts.

The Clayton school situation was primarily due to poor actions and decisions over many years by the Clayton School Board. The children of Clayton County will be the ones made to suffer if they lose accreditation.

If Georgia needs to take over the school system, then that is what this state should do. Obviously they need an entire new School Board and Superintendent.

I am fully in support of Charter Schools as well as Vouchers for private schools. While I am fully in support of Public Schools, I fully recognize that we have a serious problem in our education system and have had this for a very long time. All attempts to better the system have been with minor success. We need a wholesale revamping (refer to my answer to question 2).

One of the first charter schools in Fayette County is Our Lady of Victory Catholic High School. It has tuition of ~$10,000/year. While Fayette County’s high school graduation rate is almost 92% vice a statewide 72%, this charter school’s rate is 100%. In addition, its graduating seniors had a 100% acceptance into colleges!

This kind of performance is outstanding and ought to be what we strive to statewide. The other two counties in my district are Henry with a 74% graduation rate and Spalding (where the incumbent Yates lives) with a horrible 55%!

Vouchers are a great way to provide public reimbursement for private schools. I would propose that if the average student requires $8400 a year for public schools, then the vouchers can be given at a rate of 80% and therefore the parents will have $6,720 from the state to pay for the private school and the public school will have one less student and an additional $1,680 to help with its budget and should be able to improve its performance.

Home Schoolers also have had a great performance and we should consider a voucher of 50% to those parents with the same concept that the public school will have one less student and $4200 more dollars.

In both these examples, we have to remember that these parents currently pay their taxes and supply money to our education budget, but would not receive any direct benefit of these taxes while incurring far more expense in educating their children.

6. Would you vote for or against a switch to district voting for the Fayette County Commission? Why or why not?

Answer 6: One of the tenants of our Republican Party is that government closest to the people is best. Therefore, if there is a choice between commissioners elected county wide vice from the district he or she is supposed to represent, the later is better. The smaller district will be more familiar with that person and will hold that person more accountable for issues that affect that district. I believe this is precisely what our “founding fathers” envisioned when they set up our democracy.

Most counties in this state have this district voting. Our County does not and as a result, not only is there less accountability, but the cost of running a county wide campaign is far higher than a district wide campaign.

I have heard an argument that our county draws great people and has great success due to this form of government. I say we have great people and that is why our county is doing so well.

The current commissioners have all been elected under the current system and therefore are apprehensive of their jobs if they go to district voting.

There is also the undercurrent that Clayton County and its large minority population have district voting, and that county is a mess. I refer back to my statement that the people that have moved to Fayette County are great.

Fayette County is currently 26% minority and that percentage is growing. We will do well with district voting because our population, minorities included, will demand it.

We can establish a date after the November election that will provide 3 of the 5 commissioners to be elected district wide (3 new districts, equal in population, which cover Fayette) and the remaining 2 voted on by the entire county. This would be a good compromise and allow us to evaluate the new system.

7. Mass transit (especially MARTA) into Fayette is opposed by many Fayette voters. What’s your position and why? Address the concerns of increased crime coming with mass transit.

Answer 7: With 3.5 million people in the metro Atlanta area, mass transit is mandatory! We have one of the nation’s highest commute times. Thousands of our current 106,000 population commute to the Airport or Atlanta which has the headquarters of many corporations. Much of the work at the airport is shift work where folks do not all show up at 9 AM and go home at 5 PM. Between the lost productivity of sitting in traffic for 1 hour and the frustration of gridlock, the pleasure of sitting in an air conditioned MARTA train, reading your favorite book or newspaper, or catching up on your sleep is an easy choice.

I spent the first 17 years of my life in NYC, which has the nation’s largest mass transit system. Buses and trains go everywhere. In fact, the car traffic is still so bad that they do not allow anyone under 18 to even get a learner’s permit to drive. Everyone uses the transit system. And with a city population of over 8 million and a population of 19 million in the metropolitan area, mass transit is a necessity. If it wasn’t available, there would be total gridlock in the city.

Even with that large population, the crime rate on the transit system is not any higher than that of the metro area. One of the reasons is that they have correctly instituted a transit police force that has the powers of arrest in and around the bus and trains and stations. With a gun and a radio, they can vastly reduce crime.

If MARTA or any other mass transit system is built here, and I hope it is, we would also want a transit police force. Anyone who thinks that some criminal from a northern county will get on an enclosed train for 30 minutes and then rob your house in Fayette, and then take the stolen TV set back on MARTA for another 30 minutes thinks the criminals are even more stupid than they are. Between a transit police force, the ubiquitous cell phones and closed circuit TV cameras and recorders that I would expect on every train car, bus and station, the crime rate would be negligible.

The advantages would far outweigh the disadvantages. Not only would our commutes be easier, but when you want to go to a Braves or Falcons game or the Fox Theater downtown, the whole affair will be easier.

Aside from MARTA, there should be many options for Park and Ride Buses to the same areas and other MARTA station, as well as some light rail that operates with enough frequency to be useful from other outlying cities.


1. Are you not really a Democrat who switched parties simply to get elected in a Republican-leaning district?

Williams Specific Answer 1: Since my opponent, Mr. Yates was a Democrat for 40 years (as stated by him at the recent Rotary Forum in Fayette County), I resent this question being addressed to me.

However, the answer is the same that I delineated on my website and on my initial letter to the public on my qualifying for this candidacy. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“I have spent 36 of my 38 voting years as an Independent, supporting and helping those I thought were the most qualified to hold office: Republican, Democrat, male, female, black, or white.

The need to have the best people on the job is paramount. I have had the pleasure of working intimately in the campaigns of people in both parties.

I have been the campaign manager of a Democratic challenger for an open State House seat, and in 2006 I was the State Chairman of Governor Sonny Perdue’s largest coalition, “Pilots for Purdue,” and helped present 20,000 voters for his re-election.

There are terrific, talented, and passionate people in both parties, and it is a pleasure to work with all of them; they are all great Americans.

In this era of bitter political fights, bi-partisan support is essential. But when I decided to actively seek office, I called the Republican Party my home. As a Republican I feel I can best engage the serious issues facing Georgians, and accomplish real change.”

It would be more appropriate for me to be classified as an Independent who was forced to choose a party; however, I firmly believe that if you vote solely on the basis of party affiliation versus qualifications for office, you are part of the problem in government and not part of the solution.

We have seen the disastrous effects of voting for a party when you should be voting for the person. The party just gives you an idea of their goals, ideas and values. The rest must be ascertained by their personal comments and most importantly their deeds. I will stand on my deeds and performance against any candidate.

As Governor Schwarzenegger said recently, “I consider myself a public servant, not a party servant.”

2. How does your governing philosophy align with and diverge from the Republican and Democratic parties?

Williams Specific Answer 2: This is a great question, thanks for asking! I have been married to my lovely wife Ruthie for 34 years. We love each other very much. But we probably only agree on 90% of all things.

It would be absurd to think that I or anyone else could agree with all things in any party to the level of 100%. Those that say they are 100% in agreement with their party on all issues are few and far between, the rest are imposters trying to hide under the coattails of that party.

If I were to put a value on the level of agreement with the Republican platform it would be close to 90% With respect to the Democratic Platform it would be close to 85% and with the Libertarians it would be 50%.

On economic and international issues I am conservative. On social values I am moderate. In the classic sense I am a compassionate conservative.

I believe in smaller and efficient government, a strong military and balanced budgets with low taxes. However, I have travelled around the world and realize we have the best country, and form of government, by far.

That is why I refuse to accept that we should have homeless people to the extent we do. The statistics show that the majority are mentally ill. Over 25% of the homeless are veterans. We need to do whatever it takes to get these folks off the streets, back in a hospital or taking their medications and into the workforce, where they can be productive and self-respecting taxpaying citizens.

I have also been in a company that went through a bankruptcy, which devastated the workforce and its pay and retirement. I certainly feel that those laws that allow corporations to take retirement benefits from the workers are completely wrong.

Therefore, when it comes to corporate governance, I do not feel that companies should be allowed to do anything they want. There must be smart business regulations and low taxes that allow them to grow and prosper here in America, but not to cheat and steal (reference Enron and WorldCom), or move their operations overseas.

Rick Williams
Candidate for State House
District 73

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tortugaocho's picture
Submitted by tortugaocho on Mon, 07/07/2008 - 8:44am.

I find it incredible that someone would have the shameless lack of self-respect to run in a Republican primary after (1) paying for a contribution to Barack Obama and (2) being the webmaster for the local Democratic party.

Most of the local RINO's fake it. Not Williams. He is not even in the legislature and he is already trashing on the Republicans sounding more like Virgil Fludd (District Voting) than the Republican leadership in the House, who he would have to serve with. GWilliams thinks "Hey, I'm a Pilot, I know more than you clowns do." Gee, I bet Williams would get some choice committee assignments. Not.

Sorry, Dick....I'll pass....

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