ATLANTA -- Incumbent state Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican, and Democrat challenger Sheikh Rahman offer voters in a district covering most of Laurens and Johnson counties plus all of Treutlen different visions to attract jobs and educate children.
My platform last time was almost the same as it is now -- trying to recruit jobs back to our community, said Hatchett, first elected in 2010.
He proudly points to one tax change he helped pass earlier this year: eliminating the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing.
Thats already helping to attract jobs, Hatchett said. He thinks that proposal is part of why Dinex and Erdrich, a pair of European manufacturers, came to Laurens County in early 2012, both bringing about 250 jobs.
The incumbent supports further changes, including a proposal to shift the states tax levies, taxing incomes less and sales more.
Im definitely a consumption tax person myself. I think thats one of the fairer taxes, Hatchett said.
Rahman is looking at the smallest of small businesses: We need to help locals, mom and dad businesses that can prosper, can create their own jobs. Cutting taxes isnt necessarily the solution, he believes.
He said technical colleges are part of the answer.
We can do so much with these two-year colleges like we have in Dublin. ... Its not that we dont have jobs, but sometimes we dont have people for the jobs.
For example, he said, take a paramedic in the military whos leaving the service: They have excellent training, but they dont have a state certificate so they cant get a job. Some streamlined college program may be the answer.
Rahman also added hed like to see some sort of incentive for clean energy, calling it an industry of the future. Dublin happens to be home to one of Georgias clean energy leaders, MAGE Solar.
Indeed, theres momentum building in the state Legislature to look at some deregulation of solar power, perhaps making it easier to buy and sell home-brewed solar energy over public utility power grids.
Hatchett said hes very supportive of MAGE, but he was cautious over incentives.
Weve seen what misappropriated government incentives can cost us with other companies, he said. Hes wary of the cost of solar too, which still costs more than coal or natural gas and is inconstant.
Both State House District 150 candidates talk about schools as much as jobs.
Hatchett supports looking for simplification of the Quality Basic Education formula, a complicated calculation that divvies up state funds on a student-by-student measure, taking into account the students needs, geography, local property taxes and other factors.
It sometimes penalizes local systems ... for things they have absolutely no control over, he said, such as property tax assessment complications in Laurens County. Hatchett noted that the school board has nothing to do with setting the value of houses, but problems on that side of the equation trigger less state money.
Georgias public schools get most of their funding from two places: local property taxes and state appropriations, supplemented more or less by a smaller portion of federal dollars.
The incumbent is also a fan of charter schools, publicly funded, privately run schools that must meet state standards but are exempt from some state regulations. Charters offer choice, he said, and if they dont perform, they close.
Rahman said its his opposition to charters that drew him into his first run for public office.
The school system is really hurting bad, said Rahman, pointing out school funds from the state of Georgia dwindle year by year, as the state cuts funding from the QBE formula. It really scares me. Teachers are hurting, students are hurting, he said.
To him, it looks like the Georgia General Assembly is starving public schools to death, which might lead to school privatization. At the same time, he pointed out, charter proponents are pushing to create a state body that can give charters permission to operate, a new commission that itself would cost money.
In the past few years, all state departments have gotten less money to spend as the states tax take withers amid recession.