The 2009-2010 Legislative Session has come to an end.  This session was one of the toughest yet.   State revenues declined, unemployment rose and the danger of increased foreclosures loomed as the Legislature worked toward stimulating the economy and balancing the state budget.  Every decision made was done so with a carful eye on getting Georgians back to work, growing business, improving transportation, reducing government bureaucracy and improving education.  We addressed each of these issues without raising taxes.

The Georgia Legislature fulfilled its Constitutional requirement to balance the state budgets and we did so without raising taxes, without furloughing teachers, restoring Homeowners Tax Relief Grants, maintaining public safety standards, and providing healthcare assistance for children and the elderly.  While other governments may consider raising taxes to cover budget shortfalls, Georgia chose to reduce budgets by nearly $4 billion combined.  The budgets passed by the General Assembly recognize the very difficult economic times we’re in and is good government.  We reduced the size of government making it more self-sufficient rather than relying on taxpayers to foot the bill. 

The Georgia General Assembly passed a true stimulus package for Georgia by approving the Jobs, Opportunity, and Business Success Act of 2009 (JOBS Act).  With this package, we are lowering taxes and reducing regulation. At a time when Georgians need help, job opportunities, and economic growth, the Georgia Legislature has created and passed a solid set of pro-growth policies that will create jobs and grow business.  This brilliant piece of legislation incentivizes companies to hire new employees off of unemployment and keep them.  It reduces unnecessary taxes such as the inventory tax on businesses, which will free up cash flow in order to make room for new employees and increase production. 

With the passage of the Transportation Governance Bill (SB 200), the legislature succeeded in taking the first major strides toward fixing transportation gridlock in Georgia.  The fact is the current government structure and system has not worked for decades.  Millions of taxpayer dollars have gone to waste, the cost of projects has increased exponentially, and some projects have been on the docket for an excess of 14 years or more, all while Georgians sit in traffic trying to get to their jobs or get their children to school.  Under the new governance structure, a planning director will be appointed by the governor to develop and carry out the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) statewide plans, approved by the governor and DOT board.  The legislature will now have greater control over which projects get funded, how the budget is approved, and in doling out funds for local projects.  With a streamlined transportation governance plan in place, we can move Georgia forward to fix the gridlock within the government, get projects done and get Georgians moving on the road. 

The greatest disappointment from the 2009 Legislative Session was the House of Representatives reluctance to find middle ground on transportation funding for Georgia.  The people spoke loudly and clearly through a variety of mechanisms – the news media, calling legislative offices and participating in surveys.  You asked for the opportunity to vote on a regional transportation special project local area sales tax plan (TSPLOST).  You wanted the opportunity to vote on a one cent sales tax in your area, for that money to go toward transportation projects you approve and for your money to stay in your area.  Unfortunately, the House did not listen and transportation funding did not pass through the legislature this session.  The good news is we have committed to working toward a solution for the 2010 legislative session so that you will still have an opportunity to vote on a solution in November 2010. 

I am honored to serve and represent the 53rd Senate District in the State Senate and as the Senate Transportation Chairman.  I look forward to continuing to give the people of Georgia what they need for an improved economy and transportation.  As I look forward to this next session, please continue to contact me with your thoughts, questions and concerns. 

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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.