The 2010 Legislative Session poses many challenges due to the state of our national and local economies.  The only State Constitutional requirement we have is to balance our budget each year.  However, the most important function we have this year, besides balancing the budget, is to create and push legislation that brings jobs to Georgia.  We must create an environment of growth and expansion so Georgians can get back to work.  That is the way to turn around this economy. Some economists suggest that providing tax breaks will further decline state revenues, putting the government’s needs before the needs of the people.  State revenues mainly come from two areas – income taxes and sales taxes.  If people aren’t working, they aren’t paying taxes and state revenues continue to decline.  We must take a hard look at every viable option that will create, expand and attract new business to our state and Northwest Georgia.  I’m working with my fellow Senate leaders to find those solutions. Transportation is a large part of improving our economy.  If continued gridlock prevents employees from getting to their jobs, companies will not be encouraged to move to Georgia.  As Transportation Chairman, I’m working with Senate and House leadership in addition to Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and Gov. Sonny Perdue to provide funding initiatives that will get Georgia moving. Transportation is not a partisan issue.  The collaboration we have on all levels of government will find solutions that are best for all Georgians. In addition to improving the job market environment, we should not be over burdening our citizens with taxes.  Georgia’s property tax system is extremely complicated.  Property values in Georgia have fallen drastically over the past few years.  Assessed values have not kept pace, resulting in property taxes for many property owners being artificially high.  This week, the Senate proposed a property tax assessment and appeals reform bill with more than 40 changes to Georgia’s tax system.  Although there will be a number of changes to the bill through the legislative process, this is a good first step in the right direction.   Homeowners, business owners, tax assessors, and property lawyers provided the Senate valuable information for over a year as to the flaws, challenges and suggested solutions to the system.  As a result, Senate leaders worked with everyone in the industry and achieved bi-partisan support to overhaul Georgia’s property tax system.  Changes to the assessment and appeals system include year-round assessment appeals, all comparable sales including foreclosures and banks sales must be applied, and the “view factor” will be eliminated as a way to determine value.  The proposed changes to assessments and appeals relieve burdens from property owners, but also achieve efficiency for the process and for county governments.  The proposed changes to Georgia’s property tax system are truly done at the will of the people with every avenue of the industry having a voice.  I am honored to serve and represent the 53rd Senate District in the State Senate and as the Senate Transportation Chairman.  I am working diligently to move Georgia forward for the citizens of this great state with an improved plan of economic development and transportation. As I work for you this session, please continue to contact me with your thoughts, questions and concerns.    # # # #  Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as Chairman of the Transportation Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate district which includes Chattooga, Dade, and Walker counties and portions of Catoosa County.  He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at 404.656.0057 or by email at jeff.mullis@senate.ga.gov.