Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Perdue should not hike the cost of home ownership or medical care
by Sam Olens

Raising taxes during a recession is almost never a good idea.

But that is exactly what Gov. Sonny Perdue is proposing in two crucial state budget areas: housing and health care.

The governor wants to eliminate state grants that save many homeowners $200 to $300 per year on their annual property taxes. At a time when Georgia is leading the nation in home foreclosures, this is clearly not the time to make housing more expensive.

The governor also recommends a 1.6 percent fee on hospitals and health insurers to help fund a deficit in the state's Medicaid program. Again, we do not need to raise the cost of health care or health insurance when Georgia's unemployment rate is rising, when many Georgians are losing their insurance and when many businesses are having a hard time making ends meet. Anything that would discourage a business from offering health insurance-- or make it harder for a displaced worker to get his own health insurance-- should be avoided at virtually all cost.

We can do better than this. Times are hard, but they are certainly not hopeless.

I am chairman of the Cobb County Commission. Our Commission is proud of the fact that our government ended fiscal year 2008 with a $384,251 surplus.

Commissioners have not raised taxes, used reserves or laid off employees. Our county government spent $21 million less than was budgeted, in large part because of a hiring freeze imposed a year ago.

Cobb has not been spared from the economic downtown. A stark example is that in December 2008 there were only eight residential building permits issued in Cobb County— eight --- compared to 707 in December 2007.

That is all the more reason not to do anything that would make it more expensive to buy homes. The homebuilding industry is the heart of Georgia's economy. Our state is not going to recover until homebuilding recovers. It is simple as that. We have to tough this out.

Families know how to tough it out. They cut spending and live within their means. There is no outside source for them to tax when they need more money. We should not make it any harder on them than it already is.

Depending on the federal government for some sort of bailout is a shaky proposition with strings attached. The state of Georgia is capable of balancing its budget without tax increases. It may be difficult. But at this point there isn't any better option.

Sam Olens is chairman of the Cobb County Commission and the Atlanta Regional Commission.   [full bio]


Editor's note: Hello, Georgia! Lyle Harris, one of the most savvy journalists in the state, has a question for Georgians: Would they be willing to buy a car unseen and as-yet not even built – and pay for it in advance? Probably not. But that's exactly how Georgia Power plans to finance its expensive new plans for nuclear plants. Harris' story leads off today's articles from the Georgia Online News Service – and it's a message vital to the pocketbooks of every citizen in this state.

Also, Paul Kaplan takes a look at the awful state of Major League Baseball – awful for everyone but the grossly overpaid players and the team owners. They demand massive subsidies for their stadiums – or they threaten to leave town. Kaplan says the best thing that could happen for fans would be for the Yankees to dominate the season with all of their high-priced talent – and for owner George Steinbrenner to go bust because all of the corporations that typically buy luxury suites and seats have become victims of the economic downturn.

Our "Soapbox" today is occupied by Sam Olens, who takes a shot at Gov. Sonny Perdue for wanting to drive up the prices of housing and health care.

And, if you're not mad as hell at that, I'll heat things up with my column on the foibles of "bipartisanship" and how some folks hate "socialism" when it's for you – but not when it's for them.

As always, send your comments and suggestions to john.sugg@georgiaonlinenews.org or call 800-891-3459.

John F. Sugg, Executive Editor


Today's GONSO

When business has failed so utterly, it isn't "socialism" for government to set things right

by John Sugg
It's easy to make jokes about government. For example, there's a popular fable that when the federales in the 1990s took over a famed Nevada brothel called the Mustang Ranch, the bureaucrats so, um, screwed up the business that not even Viagra could save it from dysfunction. The only part that's true is that the government did end up owning the assets of the Mustang Ranch, some of which were auctioned on eBay. What's not true is that the government is so lousy at running things in a businesslike way, it couldn't even make a success of selling sex and booze.
Full Story

Economic downturn could produce a level playing field for baseball

by Paul Kaplan
The economic crisis is crippling the nation's most important financial institutions, but it may actually save one of the most frivolous ones.

Baseball.

The grand sport has been losing its relevance ever since George Steinbrenner figured out that baseball in New York defies the laws of economics.

Full Story

Perdue should not hike the cost of home ownership or medical care

by Sam Olens
Raising taxes during a recession is almost never a good idea.

But that is exactly what Gov. Sonny Perdue is proposing in two crucial state budget areas: housing and health care.

The governor wants to eliminate state grants that save many homeowners $200 to $300 per year on their annual property taxes. At a time when Georgia is leading the nation in home foreclosures, this is clearly not the time to make housing more expensive.

Full Story

Georgia Power's Nuke-Sized Nightmare

by Lyle Harris
Every so often our lawmakers need to be reminded that what's good for the Georgia Power Co. isn't always best for Georgians. Now is one of those times.

With a platoon of lobbyists at its disposal, the state's largest utility is in the process of bulldogging Senate Bill 31 through the Legislature on the broad hips of Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville), who also chairs the Senate Rules Committee.

To be blunt, this bill is bad news that could result in costly, nuke-sized nightmare. Just ask state officials in Florida.

Full Story

Tomorrow's Budget
New book chronicles Civil War from viewpoint of ordinary soldiers
by Bill Hendrick
Only those who hate schools would vouch for vouchers
by John Sugg
Georgia Power's pay-in-advance funding tops consumer issues at Legislature
by Maggie Lee
Georgia's chief justice: Because of bad economy, 'people will need access to justice now more than ever'
by

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