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State GOP leaders make Macon stop

The GOP unity tour came briefly to Macon this morning, with the state's top elected officials promising to work together — but not always agree — as a new legislative session begins Monday.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson gave their takes on the top issues facing the state, and Perdue said he doesn't think proposals to implement new taxes to handle the state's transportation issues stand much chance right now. Perdue recently backed a new head commissioner at the Georgia Department of Transportation who has blasted the department over inefficiencies, and the governor said taxpayers need to know they're getting good value before politicians can ask for more money.

Asked specifically if that meant proposals to raise sales taxes — whether it be statewide or just in the Atlanta area to help relieve congestion there — were dead in the water this session, Perdue didn't get specific about a timetable. But he did say that "I don't think we're prepared" and expressed strong support for private financing for roads through public-private partnerships.

That concept has been used in other states and has been growing in popularity with Georgia officials as they look to bridge the gap between what road projects are expected to cost in the coming decades and the motor fuel tax and other revenues available to pay for them.

Transportation was also one of the key issues targeted by Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, who gave reporters an off-the-cuff acronym for the session. It will be, he said, WET. That stands for Water, Education, Taxes, Transportation and Trauma care. That acronym joins the speaker's GREAT plan, aka Georgia's Repeal of Every Ad Valorem Tax, a still-shifting plan to do away with at least some of the property taxes Georgians pay to fund local government and replace them with sales tax funds.

That plan wasn't specifically discussed during the Macon leg of Thursday's cross-state tour, but both Cagle and Perdue have expressed strong concerns over the idea, cutting at least some of the momentum out from under it as the 2008 legislative session gears up.

Generally, all three men said they expect to work together this year despite an often acrimonious session last year descended, at times, into name calling and political maneuvers. Even though the House and Senate are both controlled by the Republican Party, and Perdue is a Republican, disagreements often split the House and Senate, and left the speaker and governor on difficult terms.

"We plan to address the issues the people expect us to address," Gov. Sonny Perdue said. "That doesn't mean there will be unanimity. There will be great discussions."

For more on this story come back to www.macon.com or read Friday's Telegraph.

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