GOP majority a disappointment

Steve Brown's picture

January brings a new year and another session of the Georgia General Assembly. I wish January would also usher in an era of political integrity.

I have to admit that the Republican majority under the gold dome has been disappointing. When you think about the Republicans being out of power for around 130 years, you would hope they hit the scene with some new ideas on ways to govern more efficiently. For the most part, they have behaved like spoiled school boys.

Early on, the state GOP pilfered the bond funds for new water reservoirs and spent it on other whims. It was not until certain jurisdictions began to run out of water and we fell into a state of emergency that the Republican majority began to act.

Governor Perdue had to battle his own party for two consecutive sessions just to acquire reasonable improvements in the state’s ethics laws.

I believe the principal problem we Georgians face is one-party dominance. Because there is no doubt of who is in control, the lopsided majority party tends to become self-important and downright haughty.

The ultimate example of this political self-aggrandizement is Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson. The Speaker’s arrogance reached such an embarrassing level he had to plead, like a little boy taken to the woodshed, for House members to allow him to keep his post again this session.

Much like their federal counterparts, many of our state Republican legislators talk a good game, but bow to special interests when it comes time to act.

State Senator Mitch Seabaugh (R-Sharpsburg), a developer favorite who wants the TDK Extension built, writes an annual column in The Citizen on the fundamental role of government (see: The Citizen, Oct. 18, 2008), but he never seems to follow through by the end of the session. He doles out the pork with the best of them, and substantive changes in governance have been few.

Indeed, how discouraging it is to see real estate interests, lobbyists and lawyers as key campaign contributors to our local state representatives and senators, especially while they cut spending in education and continue to fund their own legislative largesse.

There is a tremendous amount of irony in the state GOP campaigning on reduced government, reduced taxation and saying government closest to the people is best.

Gov. Perdue and other Republicans are pushing a gigantic spending proposal for infrastructure projects as a way to stimulate the state economy.

This is the same Gov. Perdue who said the nation’s governors told President-elect Obama, “We expressed our concern that we cannot borrow our way back into prosperity” (AJC, 12-10-08). The question is, “How are we going to pay for those bonds in the future?”

Our reckless Republicans are going aggressive with a bond package to use the good credit and the good name and the good balance sheet of Georgia to increase our future indebtedness. Our Republican principles are being abandoned right before our eyes.

Key Republicans in the legislature are proposing a constitutional amendment to essentially tie maximum property tax assessment increases to inflation. Not only is such a proposal tremendously flawed, but it points to the hypocrisy of their tying the hands of city and county officials while allowing state tax revenues to continuously grow.

The same legislators want to cripple cities and counties further by abolishing the automobile ad valorem tax. So, if the car tag tax is abolished and the local power to levy taxes is severely restricted, how will the local governments make up the massive deficit?

Perhaps the state legislature should consider relieving the cities and counties of unfunded mandates. Maybe the state legislature has an answer – and I certainly have not heard one – on how cities and counties can deal with the rapidly rising costs of infrastructure improvements, employee compensation, population growth and public safety.

The state legislature needs to tell us how we are to cope financially in a state economy where the Atlanta region has lost 40,000 high paying jobs (pay on average $5,700 per month) since 2001 and seen steep increases in only low wage jobs.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey recently sent a mailer including a questionnaire containing seven nebulous questions regarding several issues.

Yes, we would like better roads, better schools and fewer taxes; everyone does, but do you have any solid proposals to offer? However, I will say it was nice to see a political mailer that imbued the feeling he was at least thinking about forming government policy around some issues, unlike U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s say-nothing mailers which are an absolute waste of tax dollars.

I did send a message of concern to Rep. Ramsey and Sen. Ronnie Chance about GDOT’s waffling on the possible approval of the detrimental traffic signal on Ga. Highway 54 and Line Creek Drive after they rightly denied it twice.

Rep. Ramsey quickly replied and said, “I strongly believe any decision such as this should be made by DOT pursuant to a strict interpretation of its regulatory policies and procedures.”

Rep. Ramsey’s response was encouraging. Sen. Chance never replied.

By the way, GDOT has a new complaint form on the Internet ( where you can tell GDOT Commissioner Evans to save our traffic flow and kill the foolhardy traffic signal at Hwy. 54 and Line Creek Drive.

It appears political integrity might be too much to ask for in this up-coming General Assembly. This session could more resemble the kids breaking into their parent’s liquor cabinet than a logical approach to governance.

If you are teaching political science in the local schools, the legislature might just give your students a crash course on how to wreck state and local governments this year.

[Steve Brown, the former mayor of Peachtree City, ran unsuccessfully against Rep. Ramsey in a special election last year. He can be reached at]

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