Category: Commentaries

By Benita M. Dodd What you don’t know can indeed hurt you, especially when it comes to government. Just ask this week’s alleged victim, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who claimed he knew nothing of the tradition of executive bonuses at AIG until after the company’s bailout by the federal government. That news broke during this year’s “Sunshine Week,” marked March 15-21 across the nation and appropriately as springtime arrived with its promise of better days. Amid these financial hard times, the week highlighting the successes and challenges of transparency in government holds a promise of better days for taxpayers as they grow more aware and wary of how government uses their hard-earned dollars. The good news for Georgians is that… View Article
By Kelly McCutchen In these difficult economic times, it’s increasingly important to increase state employees’ retirement security and avoid future reductions in benefits. Yet a new study finds that the long-term investment returns of Georgia’s pension funds trail the performance of nearly every large public fund in the nation. With a January market value exceeding $54 billion, Georgia’s pension funds could be foregoing more than $1 billion in investment returns each year. The study, released in January, was initiated by the Commission for a New Georgia. The goal of its Task Force on State Investment Strategies was “to ensure that our State’s investment entities employ state-of-art policies to enhance the return on investment while remaining prudent and conservative in its… View Article

Property Tax Relief for Whom?

By Charlie Bethel  Among the taxes Georgians pay, the property tax rises to the top of  “most hated.”  It is not the tax that takes the most money from Georgians, nor is it a tax that sends relatively large sums of money to the Gold Dome in Atlanta or to Washington. Nevertheless, Georgians despise paying taxes on their land.    For an elected official serving at the local level, casting a vote to reduce property taxes feels good. But capping the annual value increase in property assessments in the name of property tax relief is bad policy for Georgia and no answer to property tax woes.   Assessment caps artificially suppress the taxable value of property that does not change ownership. As… View Article

Competition Drives Cost Savings in Auto Insurance

By Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr. If one thing stands out from recent news reports on auto insurance in Georgia, it’s that economic regulation and rate review are not needed to protect the state’s consumers from rate gouging.    With nearly 90 auto insurance providers in the state, Georgia consumers enjoy more competition and choice of auto insurance plans than they do for most other goods and services. Where else can Georgia shoppers find so many choices – food, housing, medical care, telephone service? The ability of consumers to shop, choose and switch will lead to overall competitive rate levels with no suggestion of monopoly profits. The state’s auto insurance markets do not show characteristics of natural monopoly, unfair competition or… View Article
By Chick Krautler A recent fact-finding mission to Texas, led by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, was an excellent opportunity for Georgia’s state and regional transportation policy-makers to learn from folks who have made progress in attacking their congestion and mobility challenges through tolling, alternative funding and alternative project delivery.  Georgia’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is tackling a funding and project delivery crisis and the Governor is developing a statewide transportation strategy through the IT3 (Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today) program.  Texas faces many of the problems that Georgia does. A fast growing state with significant congestion in its urban centers, it has an estimated transportation funding shortfall of $66 billion and limited opportunities for new taxes. Its aggressive approach to… View Article

Less is More in Government

By Brad Alexander  Many public sector managers rank downsizing and dismissing government workers somewhere between a toxic waste spill and a nuclear apocalypse on the undesirability scale. Recent news coverage shows that when funds are scarce their preference is for across-the-board furloughs, elimination of travel funding, delayed construction projects and field office shutdowns.   On the other hand, trimming inefficiency from government workforces is popular among taxpayers, who must tighten their own belts during economic downturns. Everyone has encountered government employees who are some combination of unresponsive, incompetent, unmotivated or clueless. Likewise, there are government folks who go far and above in creatively solving problems and moving new ideas and improved processes forward.    Is it unreasonable to fire the incompetent and… View Article

The Needless Burden of Local Assistance Grants

By Kevin Schmidt When Governor Sonny Perdue signed Georgia’s $21.1 billion budget for fiscal 2009, it contained $6 million for Local Assistance Grants (LAG), funds appropriated and allocated to a specific recipient or local government for a specific purpose. Lawmakers try to use the fact that these handouts are a relatively small part of the state budget – about 0.03 percent the ’09 budget – to defend the spending.  The size notwithstanding, taxpayers need to question these appropriations. Does the specified program constitute a legitimate function of government? Is this program a local, rather than state, responsibility? Does it pose an undue burden on the local government’s budget?  The evidence shows that a vast majority of these special projects to… View Article

Health care policy gets a shot in the arm

By Kelly McCutchen Georgia became a national leader in health care reform this week after Governor Sonny Perdue signed two bills into law at the Atlanta Medical Center. This practical legislation addresses some of health care’s biggest challenges – the high cost of insurance, inequities in the tax code, the lack of portability and the increasing toll of chronic disease. Other states have attempted broader reforms that have failed (California and Illinois) or are struggling (Massachusetts). But John Goodman, President and CE0 of the National Center for Policy Analysis described Georgia’s as “very significant reforms.” “Georgia is now the second state in the union to allow employers to help their employees obtain personal and portable health insurance – the type… View Article

Positive Outcomes of the ’08 Legislative Session

By Kelly McCutchen Those who watched this year’s legislative session as they would a hockey game – waiting for the fight – were not disappointed. Going in, the focus was a “WETT” session: water, education, taxes and transportation. But beneath the political theatre, the final score indicates a victory for good public policy. The border war with Tennessee stole water headlines, but in the undercurrent Georgia gained a statewide water management plan, significant new funding and enabling legislation to encourage the construction of new reservoirs. Businesses gained consistency when legislation passed prohibiting tougher local restrictions on outdoor watering during drought than the state’s, with an appeal mechanism for local governments to opt out of the state restrictions. And the Legislature… View Article
By Benita M. Dodd  Internet-savvy bank customers in Georgia can go online and check and balance their accounts from the comfort of their home, even at 2 in the morning.  But let that same taxpayer be curious at 10 a.m. about how his taxes are being spent in Georgia, and he’d have a tough time finding out. Transparency legislation that passed the Georgia House and Senate unanimously could soon help. The Transparency in Government Act will establish a free, searchable Web site that contains state expenditures, financial and performance audits, contracts, payments to vendors and data on personnel. The personnel data will include boards, commissions, every state authority, every university or college in the University System of Georgia and every… View Article

When I served four terms in the state Senate, one of the few places where you could go to always and get concrete information about real solutions was the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. That hasn’t changed. [The Foundation] is really right up there at the top of the state think tanks, so you should be very proud of the work that they are doing!

Congressman Tom Price more quotes