It was dubbed the GOP unity tour -- in the days leading up to Monday's opening of the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Sonny Perdue and top state legislators shuttled around the state to show residents the strong front they vow to present this term in addressing and solving some of the state's most pressing concerns.
We certainly hope so.
There are several weighty issues coming up in the legislature that directly affect Augusta, and you can bet that a lot of eyes will be trained on the Gold Dome to assure that the solutions are in the CSRA's best interest.
- The water plan. Lawmakers will have before them a statewide water management plan that took nearly three years to put together. To say it still needs a bit of work would be a masterpiece of understatement. Despite assurances from several state officials, doubt still lingers over how effective this plan would be in protecting the precious Savannah River Basin from encroachment by parched metro Atlanta. State law currently forbids that from happening, but you wouldn't know it by reading the proposed water plan, where such interbasin transfers are written about as if they're expected. The General Assembly either should fix the myriad problems with this plan, or order the Georgia Water Council back to the drawing board to produce something sensible.
- The so-called GREAT plan for tax reform. You know what's great about it? The fact that virtually every municipality and school system in the state is dead-set against House Speaker Glenn Richardson's ever-changing scheme for property tax relief.
Originally the plan called for complete abrogation of local governments' power to collect taxes. That's off the table now, but the plan still would rob school systems of the ability to impose taxes; instead, an expanded sales tax would go into effect. That means locally collected money would go straight to the state, and the folks in Atlanta then would decide how much money to give back. That also means waving good-bye to special programs, teacher bonuses and other incentives that school systems issue locally.
Everyone agrees that we need tax reform -- just not this dog of a plan. The Richmond County Board of Education is 100-percent right in opposing it, and our local legislators have no business voting for it.
- The future of the Medical College of Georgia. Thanks to the recent deal that allows the sale of Gilbert Manor to MCG, the school now can move forward with its expansion plans for its schools of dentistry and medicine. This is ironclad evidence that there still is plenty of room to expand MCG here without having to resort to building a satellite campus near the University of Georgia in Athens.
Several area legislators sit on a special state study committee looking at medical expansion and doctor retention, and they and many others no doubt are anxiously awaiting the findings of an independent study, to be presented to the Board of Regents Jan. 15, on how to best continue Georgia's mission of medical education. Whatever the outcome, we think a significant part of the findings will be the sensible "grow where you're planted" approach.