My Legislative Wish List

This week’s Courier Herald column:

We’re now just days away from Christmas. A week later is New Years. After a brief time to give resolutions an old college try, legislators will convene in Atlanta for a statewide election year session of the Georgia General assembly. It is with these tight deadlines in mind that I offer a list of Christmas wishes, hoping that it is not too late for the elves at the North Pole – or the gold dome.

First and foremost, it’s time that legislators take another serious look at Georgia’s transportation network. Our ports and airports keep us connected to the rest of the world (at least when the power is on), but our intrastate network continues to show signs of stress. Atlanta continues to experience gridlock, while other parts of the state lack direct connectivity.

My wish for the Atlanta area is not a predefined solution. Options such as trains (both heavy and light rail), bus rapid transit, additional toll lanes, and even bike lanes are on the table. My wish is that leaders go west – and east.

Right now most solutions continue to add capacity bringing people to or through the perimeter to move around the metro area. Solutions for the metro area must include more east-west routes. This could include additional transit options across the top end perimeter and/or points north, as well as grade-separation (think mini-interchanges) at major intersections to make existing east-west routes more efficient.

Outside of Atlanta, the need is more freight capacity. This includes road and rail. Every truck that can go around Atlanta is a truck not adding to traffic in Atlanta. This helps congestion in Atlanta and the economy in the rest of the state.

My wish for education is that Georgia legislators make commitments to school choice beyond lip service. Several years ago there was real momentum with Georgia becoming a national leader in the school choice movement. The defeat of the Opportunity School District amendment seems to have stymied progress.

Much like the defeat of T-SPLOST temporarily thwarted solutions on fixing our transportation infrastructure, the defeat at the ballot box didn’t mean there wasn’t a problem. It meant that voters didn’t like the proposed solution.

The place for choice advocates to start is to quit selling the model, and focus on the core of the solution. Quite simply, schools exist to serve the student. The students and their advancement must be at the center of all education discussions. The goal must be that students are funded according to their need, regardless of the kind of school from which they receive their instruction.

On healthcare, we have to understand that Medicaid is fundamental to financing much of our rural and urban healthcare system. We don’t have to like it, and we can wish all day that so many federal strings weren’t attached to our hospitals and our doctors. This is the reality state policymakers are given. Yet we don’t currently fund the system we have.

Medicaid rolls in Georgia increased more than 50% after the Affordable Care Act became law. Georgia “expanded” Medicaid without actually expanding it. And yet, hospitals and doctors report receiving less than 85 cents on the dollar of their costs to provide services to Medicaid patients.

We can’t continue to ask rural and urban hospitals to lose money on a majority of their patients and then stay in business under “free market principles”. We must recognize the disconnect between our slogans and our reality.

This means increasing provider payments on Medicaid services, and identifying the revenue stream to compensate hospitals and doctors for the cost of treating indigent patients. In exchange, this means taking a look at the myriad of regulations that simultaneously stifle competition in healthcare delivery. And yes, that means opening up the state’s Certificate of Need laws for major revisions.

And finally, my wish is that candidates who are already grandstanding over talking points show their work. Georgia currently has one of the lowest state tax burdens in the nation and is the most competitive state to do new business. Yet to hear some of them tell it, we can somehow eliminate the state income tax (and thus HALF of the state’s revenue), and either double spending or transportation or have the state assume the costs of local law enforcement while balancing the budget. These claims beg for specifics, and beyond this Christmas wish, I’ll be asking for them again in the new year.

There will be plenty of time for politics, policy, and anti-demagoguery in the new year. Until then, set these issues (and frankly, all politics) aside, and focus on enjoying what’s left of this holiday season. These wishes will become a to-do list soon enough.

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Jerry
Jerry

My hope would be that Medical and Recreational Cannabis and construction Hemp are allowed to be grown here in Georgia. That Cannabis as a whole would be legalized and regulated for adult consumption just like alcohol is. People, we have to get the prohibitionists mindset out of our politics. We need to have research facilities for this miracle plant. We need to understand what it can and can’t do. True, other states have a windfall in revenue due to this plant and resultant research facilities. But we need money for infrastructure, education and medical support systems. Cannabis is that monetary… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

Yes, we should also free the poppies while we are at it. It’s just a plant.

Ellynn
Ellynn

If I could add to your “show your work” clause to potential elected officials, include the affects of the federal tax cuts, and the expected cuts to the federal budget will do to your endgame plans. Corporate tax cuts may increase capital spending at some Georgia base companies with lots of off shore money hanging around (you know who you are Coke-a Cola) but cuts are coming to Federal sources too -Department of Ed., USDA, HUD, Medicare/Medicaid, and transportation. Growth requires local infrastructure and that is government (FSALT ) funded projects 99 times out of 100. With the current federal… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

“Corporate tax cuts may increase capital spending at some Georgia base companies with lots of off shore money hanging around…” May increase capital spending? You mentioned Coke. The residential construction business is currently be doing very well. Home Depot just announced a $15 billion stock buy back. http://www.ajc.com/business/home-depot-sticks-outlook-buys-back-billion-stock/O4K51fBbJEqIqG0NYKebkO/ Most of the trillion being borrowed will be going to further puff up executive compensation and enrich the owners of capital without increasing wages or generating good new jobs. Establishment Republicans have demonstrated that’s their number one priority. It’s necessary to actually have to pay corporations money to hire more people. Give… Read more »

Ellynn
Ellynn

Home Depot does not even come into the top 30 for corporations with off shore accounts . depending on which business mag or program you follow, Coke is between no 4 and no. 8. And I use “may”, because as I stated last week, just because they came bring money into the country at a reduced tax rate, doesn’t mean they will, plus the two best areas to place that money is in capital improvements (rework lines, automation upgrades, building improvements, etc…) or stock buy backs to increase share price and dividends if they did. Residential construction start figures released… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

I just want cameras at the Cascade Springs Nature Preserve parking lot. Too many car break-ins.

xdog
xdog

‘The goal must be that students are funded according to their need’

That kind of thinking is too radical for leaders who’ve been quick to label additional educational spending as useless ‘throwing money at the problem’.

chefdavid
chefdavid

According to our County Exec. there is going to be some more movement on the GA/TN Line. This is big news mister. If this was to happen Dade County would have all kinds of money. LOL. “Rumley said he and Commissioner Goff had met with an attorney for Georgia’s on-again-off-again “Water Wars” to gain rights on the Tennessee River, an effort he said was reviving, and which if it came to fruition would bring prosperity to Dade as the county in the right corner of the state at the right time. Atlanta will have to do something about the matter… Read more »