Oxendine: Perdue should've held back teacher furloughs

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The leading Republican candidate for governor Wednesday criticized money-saving teacher furloughs and the way Gov. Sonny Perdue handled tri-state water negotiations.

Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, campaigning in Athens, said Perdue should have exempted teachers from the three-day furloughs he announced Tuesday.

Oxendine did not say specifically what he would cut to save the $300 million the state will save by not paying 100,000 teachers for three planning days, but he said he would have looked elsewhere in the budget for savings.

"When we are lagging the country in test scores and dropout rates, cutting education is probably not the best of ideas," he said.

Employers already are reluctant to locate in Georgia because schools have a bad reputation, and the furloughs only make it worse, he said.

Perdue already had cut $2.7 billion from the state budget when he announced $900 million in additional cuts Tuesday. Lawmakers have spared education compared to other areas, but tax revenue declined to the point that furloughing teachers was unavoidable, said Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Perdue.

"We searched for change in every couch cushion," Brantley said. "We looked for anything to cut, and we protected teachers through this whole thing."

Oxendine also said Georgia negotiators botched talks with Alabama and Florida over how much water Atlanta can take from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River. A federal judge ruled last week that Atlanta must drastically reduce the amount of water it draws from Lake Lanier in 2012 unless Congress changes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations.

"A lot of people at the state Capitol have been playing politics, and they've been running around beating their fists on the table, blaming our sister states for all of our problems, and bad-mouthing them and really goading them into suing us," Oxendine said. "Well, you don't challenge someone to take you to court and sue when the law is a little sketchy on your side."

A new reservoir should have been built in Athens, he said, because Athens-Clarke County's water system is even more vulnerable to drought than Atlanta's.

"We saw in the last drought how bad the water supply got here in Athens," he said, referring to a period in fall 2007 when the city had only enough water to last about two months.

Perdue broke off negotiations because he never got a fair deal from the neighboring states, Brantley said. The state also has ramped up reservoir construction, although some funding has been cut in the recession, he said.

More reservoirs aren't necessarily the answer, Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison said. State officials have held up Athens-Clarke County's water-use planning and conservation measures as an example to communities all over the state, she said.

Oxendine is considered a front-runner in the 2010 governor's race. Thirty-eight percent of Republican voters support Oxendine, according to a Strategic Visions poll released Wednesday. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, is running second at 16 percent, three other candidates are in single digits, and 27 percent of voters polled were undecided.

A Democratic candidate for governor, David Poythress, also criticized the furloughs. Perdue should have eliminated his "Go Fish" boat-ramp program and tax breaks for special interests instead, Poythress said in a news release.

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themaninthemirror
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themaninthemirror 07/23/09 - 08:04 am
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Sonny Perdue is not concerned

Sonny Perdue is not concerned about who he insults with his cuts, he is on the way back to South Georgia and could care less.

Riverman1
90742
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Riverman1 07/23/09 - 08:22 am
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I suppose we all want to

I suppose we all want to blame someone when the money runs out.

Little Lamb
48010
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Little Lamb 07/23/09 - 08:56 am
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If Athens/Clarke County wants

If Athens/Clarke County wants a new water reservoir, they need to build it themselves. Their water system is flush with cash, and they should not use the legislature to have poor folks from south Georgia pay to build an Athens reservoir.

CD1962
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CD1962 07/23/09 - 09:00 am
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Should the teachers be exempt

Should the teachers be exempt from all the economic problems? Unemployment is at 10.1 now in Augusta. They should be happy they have jobs that pay so well. We are all hurting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

resident
501
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resident 07/23/09 - 09:29 am
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I am afraid you are mistaken,

I am afraid you are mistaken, Teachers are underpaid. They make less than people working asembly jobs do in manufacturing in some cases. They are required to use their own money to pay for classroom supplies. I think Atlanta needs to reduce its water WASTING (not usage). They allow businesses to water lawns (streets) to the point there is moss growing like would be in a stream or river bank. There should be no reason for a BANK or highrise building to water the lawn. This is wasting water that can be used for business or people that do need the water and have conserved. This I am sure is the case for Athens as well.

CD1962
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CD1962 07/23/09 - 09:56 am
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I saw in the paper a few

I saw in the paper a few weeks back that some teachers are getting $85,000 to $90,000 a year some of them to teach 1st and 2nd grade. How is that underpaid. Pleeeeese! Most of us would kill to have a job that paid that much. Not to mention all the time off they get. I would gladly buy a few thousand worth of supplies for that deal.

myobservations
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myobservations 07/23/09 - 10:37 am
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CD1962, FYI--When reporters

CD1962, FYI--When reporters and others say "teachers" they lump together all certified educators. Most classroom teachers do not make 85,000 to 90,000 a year. The larger salaries are mostly administrators and most of them are twelve month employees. They don't get "all that time off." The teachers who get the larger salaries usually have other duties and responsibilities that require a lot more time and effort than you can imagine.

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