The first two weeks of the legislative session are now in the books. The Georgia General Assembly kicked off the 152nd General Assembly session on Monday, January 13, 2014. I was honored that the Reverend James Holt, who served the First Baptist Church of Ellijay for over 27 years, joined us as the pastor of the day for the House of Representatives. Rev. Holt’s words set the right tone and inspired the members of the House as we took up the people’s business.
While we are in session, there are a number of pressing issues facing the General Assembly, but none more important than managing your taxpayer dollars and tackling the state budget. Since I have held the gavel as Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, we have balanced the budget through the hard times without raising your taxes and I expect this year to be no different.
The Georgia House of Representatives was in session all five days last week in what proved to be a busy and productive time. One of the highlights was when I had the privilege of visiting with over 3000 members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce along with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Governor Nathan Deal. I used this opportunity to talk about what the state has done to help foster an economic environment where the private sector can create jobs and get people working again. I also spoke of how important it was for Georgians to become more engaged in the political process. Today it is more important than ever to get to know the men and women who represent your interests at all levels of government.
I also had the privilege of welcoming Governor Deal to the House of Representatives on Wednesday where our Governor gave his annual State of the State Address. Governor Deal used this opportunity to unveil his budget priorities. He mainly focused on education, proposing an additional $547 million in funding for K-12 schools, and he also spoke of the importance of pushing sound policies to encourage job creation. The governor pointed out that the state’s unemployment rate is at its lowest since 2009, and 217,000 jobs have been created in the past three years. Lower unemployment means more Georgians are back at work, and state revenues are returning to pre-recession levels. The policies we have implemented over the past few years are working and the Governor understands, like I do, that a quality educational system will help spur economic growth, so I am excited for the House to begin looking at his proposals.
We also took up the first bill of the session last week. Because a federal judge ruled that Georgia had to hold elections for US House and US Senate earlier this year on May 20th instead of July, we were put in the position of having two sets of elections: one to send people to represent us in Washington DC and another date to elect people to represent us in Atlanta and on the local level. I felt that having two sets of elections would not only confuse people, but also be a waste of tax dollars to hold these elections on separate dates. For this reason, we passed a bill that calls for all primary elections to be held at the same time on May 20th. The Governor signed the bill into law this week.
Over the past two weeks, the Georgia House of Representatives has been reviewing the amended budget which sets state spending through July 1st. This budget was approved Friday, January 24th. Due to the improving economy, state revenues have increased. The largest share of these funds were set aside to provide additional funding for K-12 education. After that, the second greatest increase in funding went to economic development. Of the largest budget areas, 54.3 percent of all state revenues are allocated to education; 23 percent to health programs, 8.4 percent to public safety and 5.8 percent to economic development. I am pleased with this budget and feel it properly prioritizes your taxpayer dollars where they are needed most.
It is an honor to represent you in the House of Representatives. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments about your state government. You may reach me at (404) 656-5020 or by email at email@example.com.