ATLANTA -- Electioneering newcomer and software engineer Heath Clark is challenging incumbent state Rep. Willie Talton, a retired law enforcement officer, to represent part of north Houston County under the Gold Dome.
Both men say state spending must be conservative.
The winner in the May 20 GOP primary goes to Atlanta. There is no Democrat in the race.
In a civilized challenge, Clark said Talton has served the community well and is his brother in Christ. Its just that he disagrees with some of Taltons votes -- especially on the budget.
Clark said it is frustrating that the Legislature spent about $300 million in tax receipts this year that came in above projections instead of putting the money in a rainy day fund or returning it to taxpayers. And hes not happy with an appropriation next year for building a parking deck at a new Falcons stadium in Atlanta.
Teachers are getting furloughed, having money taken away from them, said Clark, but the Legislature can find $17 million to build a deck? That doesnt benefit Houston County at all.
The annual budget is the only thing the state Constitution requires the Legislature to do every year, and it generally attracts much wrangling that ends in bipartisan support. In the past few years, its hovered around $40 billion. A little more than half of that is federal money passed through the state books. The Falcons parking deck money appeared in the budget just before a final vote.
Clark also said he wants to get rid of state income tax as well as a 2-year-old car tax shift to a one-time sales tax that he said is a net tax increase.
If cutting taxes means budget cuts, Clark said he would look for places to cut where there is waste or where the private sector could do things better. But he also said if you cut taxes, the economy grows so more revenue is actually brought in.
If anything brings all candidates for every Middle Georgia election together, its support for Robins Air Force Base. The main difference is which angle each one emphasizes.
Clark said he would like to see ways that we can do joint services out of Robins, maybe have some commercial cargo.
It would be a good fit for logistics in the midstate, Clark suggested.
The base always needs support from the federal level, Talton said. As a state lawmaker, his responsibility is to keep that link strong, he said, between local governments, members of Congress and federal agencies in Washington, D.C.
If re-elected, 2015 would be Taltons 10th year under the Gold Dome. That seniority puts him on some key committees, such as Education and the tax-writing Ways and Means.
You dont just go to the General Assembly and get those committees at once, Talton said.
Id like to work on continuing to try to make Georgia a really attractive state as far as industry coming in, Talton said. That could mean space, water or whatever a company needs to thrive.
As for spending, Georgia cannot borrow operating money like the federal government. It must balance its budget every year. Talton praised Georgias budgeting and the AAA credit rating that results, and he called himself a fiscal conservative.
People want a representative who spends their money right and still gives them the services they need.
Talton did say he would like to see teachers get better pay and be freed from bureaucracy. I wish wed give our teachers more time to teach, he said. Part of this years unforeseen tax receipts were budgeted for K-12 education.
The retired chief deputy sheriff also said the way crime is, we dont ever get to a point where we have enough training for our law enforcement officers, calling for spending on their training and equipment to always be a priority.
The state representative job comes with a salary of a little more than $17,000 for 40 annual days in session plus a variable number of committee days in Atlanta.