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Jobs, economic development should be top priorities of governor and legislature in 2012, poll shows

Lobbying limits endorsed; support low for grocery tax

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When Georgia legislators return to Atlanta this week for the start of the 2012 legislative session, voters overwhelmingly want them to focus on jobs and economic development. Nothing else comes close.

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Workers clean bricks during construction of the TEE Center Thursday on Reynolds Street in Augusta.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Workers clean bricks during construction of the TEE Center Thursday on Reynolds Street in Augusta.

A poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Georgia News­paper Partnership, which includes The Augusta Chronicle, shows 39 percent of registered Georgia voters believe the economy and job creation should be the top priority of the governor and Gene­ral As­sem­bly when the session starts Mon­day.

“We need jobs; people need to go to work,” said Alvin McCullough, a 70-year-old retired manufacturing worker from Waynesboro who now drives a school bus. “A lot of people that are on welfare now, they don’t have a choice. A lot of people are losing their houses.”

Fourteen percent of respondents said health care should be the top concern, while 12 percent said state taxes and spending – which often go hand in hand with job creation. Education was the primary concern for 10 percent. No other issue reached double digits.

Georgians also strongly said they support changes in state ethics laws to limit lobbyists’ largesse at the Gold Dome.

Retired postal worker William Glide­well, of Lincolnton, wants both disclosure of lobbyists’ gifts along with caps on the value of dinners, tickets and trips lobbyists bestow on lawmakers.

“I’m sort of old-fashioned,” said Glide­well, 79. “I don’t think they should give them anything. It’s a bribe for support.”

Legislative leaders and Gov. Nathan Deal said the poll confirms their belief that action is needed on job creation and said they will respond. Deal plans to make an announcement on the subject this week, but aides did not offer details.

“The governor on Tuesday will outline his vision for making Georgia more competitive for job creation, as he has always said he wants to make Georgia the most competitive place to do business in the Southeast,” Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.

Deal will speak at the Georgia Cham­ber of Commerce’s annual Eggs & Issues breakfast Tuesday and give his State of the State address that night.

Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Com­mit­tee, said he is eager to hear Deal’s plans. Balfour said lawmakers can often best foster job creation by making the state more competitive, whether it’s through economic development incentives or by changing the tax code.

“It’s not a surprise at all we’re talking jobs,” Balfour said. “It’s the No. 1, 2 and 3 issue, as it is in probably 45 other states.”

The governor’s announcement is expected to include his plan for a tax overhaul, which he and others believe will spur job creation. There are already draft proposals floating around the Capitol to lower the state’s individual income tax rate while raising the state sales tax or adding a sales tax on groceries.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom­mie Williams, R-Lyons, said he is interested in shifting the state’s tax focus from income to consumption taxes and that adding a state sales tax on groceries might make sense.

But, he said, “I don’t know that we’ll have the will to do that.” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, for one, has already come out squarely against the idea, and Deal has previously said he opposes taxing groceries.

Wayne Memmler, 46, of Hamp­­ton, hopes lawmakers find another way. The Republican voter believes jobs and economic development should be lawmakers’ top concern, but he wants to see the tax burden eased for small businesses and is wary of lawmakers shifting taxes.

“Whenever you’re raising taxes and correspondingly lowering taxes, it never seems to work,” he said.

Poll respondents said they were dubious of adding sales taxes to groceries in exchange for an income tax cut. Only 19 percent of voters said they support the idea. Sixty percent, however, said they would support increasing the tax on cigarettes by $1 a pack to pay for an income tax cut.

Kelly McCutchen, the president of the Georgia Pub­lic Policy Foundation, a think tank that supports free-market policies, said those numbers don’t surprise him.

“What that shows is most everyone buys groceries and not many people smoke,” he said. “Most tax questions, people personalize and calculate, ‘I’m for the tax increase that other people are going to pay. I’m for the tax cut I’m going to receive.’

Deal will also highlight a new major health care initiative next week, Robinson said.

“We’re going to lay the groundwork for having the doctors and the medical infrastructure in place that we need to serve a growing population here,” he said.

Cheryl Misner, of Ac­worth, hopes that is good news for her. The 64-year-old Democrat is disabled and on Medicare but has been denied Medicaid despite living off $1,000 a month.

“They tell me I make too much,” she said. “I hope they make it more readily available.”

Other highlights from the poll include:

• Sixty-four percent support shortening prison sentences for nonviolent offenders and diverting drug offenders to treatment programs instead of prison, an idea House Speaker David Ral­ston, R-Blue Ridge, called “exciting.” Concerns have been raised about rising prison costs, and Ralston said he believes lawmakers will make historic changes in how the state incarcerates people who could still be productive members of society.

“We’ve got a governor that’s supportive, I’m supportive,” he said. “We have an excellent opportunity for us to do something that needs to be done in Georgia.”

• Fifty-three percent of voters believe the state should spend money to support daily operations of mass transit.

• Half of all respondents agree that the state should change its new immigration law to address concerns from farmers and others in the agriculture industry that the tough new regulations are hurting one of Georgia’s most important economic engines. Nearly a third, 31 percent, oppose changes while 19 percent are undecided.

• A slim majority, 51 percent, support legalizing gambling on horse racing to support HOPE scholarship programs and trauma care. Slightly fewer, 46 percent, support legalizing casino gambling.

Mitchell Wright, of Coving­ton, is among them. The 88-year-old Republican sees it as economic development.

“You bring in casino gambling, I think that will be a big source of revenue,” he said, adding that Underground Atlanta and Savannah would be logical locations. “The lottery is the same thing as casino gambling, absolutely.”

• Asked whether they support a cap on the value of gifts lobbyists may can give state officials, 72 percent of statewide respondents said yes, and 76 percent support requiring the General Assembly to follow the same open government laws applied to other state agencies. The Legislature is exempt from Open Records and Open Meetings acts.

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Riverman1
84889
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Riverman1 01/08/12 - 08:00 am
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Curious that you mainly spoke

Curious that you mainly spoke to older retired people. But it's also interesting that most of them said jobs were the number one priority. They are wise enough to know social security depends on young people working.

I'm not a smoker, but the huge tax on cigarettes makes me wonder if it's not coming to other commodities in the future? Sodas? Sugar? Sex (lovemaking for the women)? Forgive me, but I had to throw the sex in for alliteration. You get the idea.

Riverman1
84889
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Riverman1 01/08/12 - 08:24 am
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It just hit me how the

It just hit me how the photograph of the TEE bricks being laid reminds me of an old newsphoto of the Cubans building another wall next to our wall at Guantanemo Naval Base in Cuba "to keep Americans from invading Cuba." Useless walls, bricks being wasted. Maybe we can use the TEE Center to house federal prisoners, like Gitmo does, when the ballyhooed conventions never show up.

FalseHopeLooseChange
5
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FalseHopeLooseChange 01/08/12 - 10:50 am
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“We need jobs; people need to

“We need jobs; people need to go to work,” ....No, we need people to quit looking for work and drop off the unemployment records. Larger numbers of folks that just give up looking for work actually lower the unemployment number, thereby making politicians and economists feel better about the employment situation.

So -- to get the unemployment number down to 7 per cent or less and get our 'jobs focused' president reelected, another million or so folks just need to give up in disgust and despair and go on government welfare.

JRC2024
9063
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JRC2024 01/08/12 - 11:59 am
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I wonder what will happen if

I wonder what will happen if they lower the tax rate and apply a consumption tax. Will the sale of tripple tax free bonds be curtailed because the benifit will not be and much and if so where will low income housing, roads and the like get their funding. Also since we in Augusta live on a border state it would be cheaper to go to South Carolina to buy our major purchases without the consumption tax or just order off the internet where there is no tax. ???????????

constituent
164
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constituent 01/08/12 - 12:49 pm
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Georgia is ranked 49th in the

Georgia is ranked 49th in the nation for job creation. Gov. Nathan Deal and his administration has played a big role in Georgia's economic turmoil. He made a promised to " create jobs " but the jobs aren't there. Georgia has lost 8,000 jobs since one - term Gov. Nathan Deal took office.

Swampman
46
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Swampman 01/08/12 - 03:00 pm
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There's an elephant in the

There's an elephant in the room that no one likes to talk about. One of Georgia's perennial problems with job creation is that employers offering good-paying, higher tech jobs simply aren't interested in coming to places where the work force is perceived as under-educated and provincial. In addition to the expertise and skill sets necessary to do such jobs, so-called "quality of life" issues such as a community's social climate - including support for art & culture and the availability of recreational opportunities - are very big deals for corporate decision makers. The more they think a place is a backwater, the less likely they are to locate there, no matter how many incentives they get offered. That's why metro Atlanta, despite its problems, draws people like flies while our rural communities continue to wither and die (a situation not unique to Georgia).

Another fact that conflicts with the ideological dogma of the current Georgia governor and legislature: deregulation does not attract business. Oh, sure, sketchier operators may like it, but the really good jobs tend to gravitate towards places with more regulations because those tend to go hand-in-hand with the kind of social climates they like. Take two of the former governors running for the Republican nomination. Rick Perry's "Wild West, anything goes" Texas may have added a bunch of low-wage service jobs (though tied more to the state's overall population growth than to its anti-regulatory environment), while a lot of the jobs added to Mitt Romney's much more regulatory Massachusetts have been really good jobs in high end industries.

Hucklebuck
43
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Hucklebuck 01/08/12 - 04:36 pm
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Swampman you nailed it on the

Swampman you nailed it on the head. Uneducated and no skills pretty much describes the Georgia workforce. I can't understand why they won't get rid of that stupid law that you can drop put of school at age 16. Same thing that happened in texas. They brag about all of the jobs that are/were created there but hell you need two of them to make ends meet. These tax breaks that they give to these big business (ie Kia) ends up hurting more than helping.

Riverman1
84889
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Riverman1 01/08/12 - 04:42 pm
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Keeping any kid in school

Keeping any kid in school against his will is terribly disruptive to the other students and teachers. It harms the schools more than anything. School should be a privilege, not a punishment.

Riverman1
84889
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Riverman1 01/08/12 - 04:44 pm
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Hucklebuck, I'm curious why

Hucklebuck, I'm curious why you believe having a factory move into an area providing hundreds of jobs hurt the area, even if they are given property tax breaks?

dstewartsr
20389
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dstewartsr 01/08/12 - 05:17 pm
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I agree with RM's 3:42PM

I agree with RM's 3:42PM post. A free public education (like free, that is, paid for by the public, housing) is NOT a right; it is a privilege extended to all by the public will and public coffers. Continued use of which should be conditional on progress and behaviour.

Riverman1
84889
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Riverman1 01/08/12 - 05:34 pm
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Dstewartsr, to continue on

Dstewartsr, to continue on that thought, I believe it's best for all concerned. The students who are behaving and working hard, certainly the teachers, but also for the students who are simply not cut out for school due to lack of academic ability or socially not suited to being in a classroom.

I mean there are people like that in life who do very well. We all know about the examples of people who left school, worked hard and became tremendous sucesses. Dave Thomas, the Wendy's founder, comes to mind.

Attempts to keep kids in school against their will with legislation such as taking their licenses away are misguided. It leads to morose kids in a classroom not participating in any positive way. That's not good for anyone.

dstewartsr
20389
Points
dstewartsr 01/08/12 - 08:15 pm
0
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You preach to the choir; I

You preach to the choir; I was five years a substitute teacher here in the CSRA. I can tell you in any middle or high school classroom there is at least one who knows unless there's a felony involved, they will be right back in class.

The alternate school inspires no fear; several of my former pupils there connived to return. (Smaller classes with more personal attention, and less bullying than regular school.) I suspect if the parents of these had to underwrite their transportation and education there would be a noticeable upgrade in student behaviour.

I also agree there might be some for whom regimented schooling is not successful, but for the rest, a half-fast education isn't worth the price we pay to keep them. There seems to be a dichotomy in thinking if we don't educate them, they will end up in prison. False. Check out the record in this regard; most of our felons stayed in school until the mandatory age and little more.

madgerman
236
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madgerman 01/08/12 - 10:10 pm
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Man I am glad they are still
Unpublished

Man I am glad they are still talking about a consumption tax. Given the small amount I buy retaik in Georgia (I use the internet a lot0, I will have a lot more for the gaming tables at Vegas if the income tax is abolished. Keep up the good ideas. As to the lobbyists, I hope they don't do anything to keep our commissioners from getting free gas and of course their Masters tickets. I mean after all they deserve them for all the work they do to the area before the great event.

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