The budget: It will color just about everything that goes on this session, and it won’t be pretty. Look for new cuts, and more furloughs and layoffs are certainly on the table as state leaders try to shave, by many estimates, as much as another $2 billion off a budget that has already taken even bigger whacks in the last year and a half.
Water: Metro Atlanta needs it. Look for new reservoir funding and some conservation measures to bubble out of the General Assembly this year, even as Gov. Sonny Perdue works with the governors of Alabama and Florida on a new water-sharing agreement and the state pleads its case in federal court. The clock is ticking. A federal judge has slapped a three-year timetable on metro Atlanta and could cut off the flow from its biggest source of drinking water, Lake Lanier. How could this affect Middle Georgia? Well, watch to see if some of those reservoirs are proposed along the Ocmulgee River or if the idea of piping water from outside of metro Atlanta — an expensive proposition — gains support.
Transportation: Officials have said for years that Georgia needs to spend more on its roads, but consensus on a funding mechanism has been elusive. Look for a compromise to be struck this session, with the state allowing local counties to band together to pass another penny tax to fund construction. Voters could put the tax in place anywhere, but the biggest need is in congested metro Atlanta.
Tax reform: Many Republican legislators tried and failed to do away property taxes in Georgia. Now it’s all about tweaking the system in an effort to keep tax values from rising faster than the home prices that have taken a hit in a bad economy. Look for a push, too, to improve sales tax collection rates and to punish tax scofflaws. Tax breaks for small businesses, several of which were vetoed earlier this year, will almost certainly make a comeback as the Legislature tries to spur job creation.
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The wildcard(s): You just never know what’s going to happen when the Georgia General Assembly goes into session. More often than not, it’s the issue most people never saw coming that ends up being the talker.
Will attempts to broaden gun-carrying rights rear their head again? Will immigration reform pop back up? What about Sunday alcohol sales? Only time will tell.
- Staff reports