Author: Mike Klein

By Benita Dodd Benita Dodd, Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation The “Untie Atlanta” commercials on radio and TV are nothing if not clever. Frustrated commuters can relate to the visual onslaught on TV of roads tangled in a giant knot and the radio announcement, accompanied by blaring horns, that says “Traffic in metro Atlanta is tied up in knots … Let’s untie the knot. Vote yes for the July 31 Regional Transportation Referendum.” Without a doubt, inadequate transportation spending has led to congestion and reduced mobility in this state. If voters in each of the 12 regions support the referendum, a penny transportation special local option sales tax (T-SPLOST) will fund its tailored list of projects. Some of them… View Article
By Mike Klein The Little White House in Warm Springs is  a place where time stands still. This was the Georgia home visited by Franklin Delano Roosevelt before and during his Presidency.  It was far away from the stress and pain of world issues, somewhere that Roosevelt could find solace, therapy for polio that stole his strong legs and the companionship of friends.  A stroke claimed the life of the longest-serving President in American history when Roosevelt died in his tiny four-poster bed on April 12, 1945 in Warm Springs. On the world stage Roosevelt led his country out of depression and he led the free world against totalitarianism on two continents.  But it was in Warm Springs that FDR… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia built its economic strategy over the past couple decades around being a good place to raise a family with low taxes and a business friendly environment.  But others are getting pretty good at using similar strategies and Georgia should feel none too comfortable with its tenth place national ranking in an economic strategies and performance report this week from the American Legislative Exchange Council. “Georgia is still among the better states.  Certainly you are not in the crisis category,” ALEC economist Jonathan Williams said during a telephone interview.  “However, it does have some issues in terms of mediocrity.”  Georgia’s 6% state personal income tax rate is about in the middle of all states, but it is… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia’s high school graduation rate could improve next year because the state will report the number of students who complete graduation requirements within five years instead of four years.  Yes, you read that right, a five-year graduation rate. “We know that not all students are the same and not all will graduate from high school in four years, so we asked for the U.S. Department of Education’s permission to use a five-year cohort graduation rate for federal accountability purposes,” state schools Superintendent John Barge said Tuesday. “Ultimately, our goal is to ensure each child will graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and a career, regardless of how long it takes.” Barge is correct.  Graduation… View Article
By Mike Klein There is this idea out there that the country has a tax code.   Actually, it has a tax obstacle course.  It is almost impossible to decipher the obstacle course with its many minefields and politicians constantly argue about how to “simplify” it.  That is why the annual dust-up between the Tax Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a fascinating spat. Each year the Foundation announces Tax Freedom Day – the date on which it says we have worked long enough to pay federal, state and local taxes.  This year the Foundation says freedom will arrive next Monday in Georgia and one week later nationally, on Monday, April 17.  Are you feeling better? The… View Article
By Mike Klein The final breath has  been drawn by this year’s Georgia General Assembly.  Here is what lawmakers did on seven issues that are closely tracked by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.  This article discusses state charter schools, digital learning, criminal justice and juvenile code reform, pension and tax reform and health care reform.  All of these will require more work going forward and in some cases, much more work starting soon. State Charter Schools This November voters will decide who got it right:  Lawmakers four years ago when they created a state charter schools commission or the state Supreme Court last spring when it ruled that the commission was unconstitutional.  The very fact that voters – not the… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia criminal justice reform has passed both chambers but the House would need to agree to substitute legislation because the Senate added seven amendments when it passed the bill 51-0 on Tuesday afternoon.  Two other floor amendments failed and two were withdrawn. None of the amendments dramatically change Georgia’s most sweeping criminal justice reform since a generation of do the crime, do the time laws were passed some twenty years ago. Governor Nathan Deal made criminal justice reform a major priority during his first State of the State address in January 2011.  The work of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform last year and the legislature this year are an important first step forward with others… View Article
Georgia legislators overwhelmingly approved next year’s budget just one day after they voted to pass significant pension investment reform.   This afternoon the Senate began discussion of House Bill 1176 criminal justice reforms. Senators offered eleven amendments to the criminal justice reform legislation. Next year’s $19.342 billion budget that passed both chambers Tuesday is 5 percent higher than $18.2 billion current fiscal year funding.  Governor Nathan Deal’s office recently increased the revenue estimate by $177 million.  “While this is positive affirmation that we are recovering slowly, it should be understood that this growth does not begin to regain all the lost ground from our high water mark in Fiscal 2008,” said House appropriations chair Terry England. “At that point (during fiscal… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia’s current sixth graders will start high school with more digital learning options.  Monday the House passed Senate legislation to expand those resources and prohibit local systems from blocking students who want to take online courses.  The bill passed 125 – 38.  Georgia Virtual School would manage the expansion and emerge with a more ambitious footprint.  Having already passed the Senate, the bill is now ready for Governor Nathan Deal’s consideration. Senate Bill 289 stipulates that expanded digital learning options in high schools would start to become available in the fall 2014 school year.  Rep. Mike Dudgeon presented the legislation on the floor, saying, “When this bill is fully implemented in 2018 I think we will look… View Article
By Mike Klein Monday morning millions will pay attention via media reports but only a few dozen will be inside when the U.S. Supreme Court begins three days of arguments that will decide the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s federal health care reform law.  Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will be among those few who have a seat in the Court where history will begin to unfold. “We won’t know the opinion until the end of June,” Attorney General Olens said this week when he discussed the case before Georgia Public Policy Foundation members and guests.  The lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court is just one of several filed nationally that all had the same goal: Throw out the… View Article

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