Dublin House candidates duel on education, jobs

mlee@macon.comOctober 6, 2012 

  • State House District 150 candidates

    Matt Hatchett

    Age: 46
    Party: Republican
    Occupation: Business owner
    Political experience: Elected to state House in 2010. Dublin City Council member from 1999-2009.

    Sheikh Rahman
    Age: 51
    Party: Democratic
    Occupation: Business owner
    Political experience: First bid for elected office

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.

“That’s 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 state’s tax levies, taxing incomes less and sales more.

“I’m definitely a consumption tax person myself. I think that’s 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 isn’t 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. ... It’s not that we don’t have jobs, but sometimes we don’t have people for the jobs.”

For example, he said, take a paramedic in the military who’s leaving the service: “They have excellent training, but they don’t have a state certificate so they can’t get a job.” Some streamlined college program may be the answer.

Rahman also added he’d 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 Georgia’s clean energy leaders, MAGE Solar.

Indeed, there’s 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 he’s very supportive of MAGE, but he was cautious over incentives.

“We’ve seen what misappropriated government incentives can cost us with other companies,” he said. He’s 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 student’s 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.

Georgia’s 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 don’t perform, they close.”

Rahman said it’s 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 state’s tax take withers amid recession.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service

Top Jobs

Find a Home

$999,999 Macon
5 bed, 4 full bath, 1 half bath. Beautiful waterfront compound...

Find a Car

Search New Cars