Political Notebook

House panel approves pitch for base community matching grants

State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, told a panel of legislators at the state Capitol on Thursday that military bases are an economic boon for the whole state. He’s just filed a bill that could set aside state funds to help base-area communities support their bases.
State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, told a panel of legislators at the state Capitol on Thursday that military bases are an economic boon for the whole state. He’s just filed a bill that could set aside state funds to help base-area communities support their bases. mlee@macon.com

— Dozens of legislators have signed onto a new Georgia House bill that could set aside funds to help the state’s military bases dodge any future round of federal base cuts.

State Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, told a panel of fellow representatives at the Capitol on Friday that Georgia’s military bases are an economic boon for their own communities and for the state as a whole.

So the point of the grant fund he’s proposing would be to “further enhance that, … whether you’re bringing in new missions or supporting active duty military that are already on an installation such that BRAC would see that favorably in a federal review,” he said.

The idea is to supply matching state dollars for base-area city or county projects that will help Georgia’s bases get ready to impress any future Base Realignment and Closure inspectors.

Communities might seek help for a broad range of projects. For example, a community might ask for matching funds to help encroachment issues: buying and clearing out buildings on land near bases that the federal government would prefer to see empty of people.

Technically, Blackmon’s House Bill 470 creates what would be called the Defense Community Economic Development Fund.

The idea got unanimous approval from the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Friday morning.

That’s only the first step, however. If the full Legislature approves the idea of the fund, lawmakers would still need to budget money for it. Right now, the state budget for the year that will begin in July does not have any such funds.

Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee

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