Originally created 02/21/99

A stark contrast 022199 - The Augusta Chronicle



Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes has hit the ground running with progressive legislative initiatives ranging from open records reform and tax cuts to health care proposals that even wary GOP House leader Bob Irvin says "is a pretty good middle ground."

The new Democratic governor continues to win plaudits for reaching across political, racialand geographical lines to push his agenda. To cite just one example, he named Sen. Charlie Tanksley, R-Marietta, as his assistant legislative floor leader.

Contrast this general good will and political bridge-building with the dismal record of new Democrat Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, the presiding officer of the Georgia Senate.

Unlike affable Democratic predecessor Pierre Howard -- who fostered GOP input and even named a Republican as a key committee chairman -- Taylor is turning out to be meaner than the candidate he labeled "mean" last fall, defeated opponent Mitch Skandalakis.

Senators from both parties tell us Taylor is particularly petty and cruel toward Democrat-turned-Republican Sen. Sonny Perdue -- a one-time Senate president pro tem. And Perdue is widely regarded in both parties as one of the most intelligent and hard-working members of the General Assembly.

Furthermore, while Senate Republicans expected to be downgraded somewhat, they have been shocked that an openly vindictive Taylor has kicked their senior lawmakers off of key committees. That loss of committee experience certainly does not promote good government -- and we would say this even if the shoe were on the other foot and a GOP majority was abusing power in this fashion.

Finally, get a load of Taylor's latest political ax-grinding. Here's an excerpt from a blustering Feb. 10 letter:

"The major reason that we cannot reach our goals in public transportation is because the Republican legislators continue to use the gas tax as a political weapon to defeat Democrats who want to prepare for Georgia's future."

This is just plain wacky!

Someone please tell our addled lieu-tenant governor that Roy Barnes is against raising the gasoline tax, especially when there is a budget surplus. And it's the House Democratic leader -- Rep. Larry Walker -- who is insisting that most Democrats are against raising the tax.

Is there anyone in his party who can gently ask Taylor to pause, take a deep breath and chill out, and assure him that the bruising 1998 election campaign is over?