By Kelly McCutchen
Twenty-five years. A quarter of a century. It’s hard to believe the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has been around that long.
In exactly one month – November 11 – we’re having a birthday celebration, keynoted by John Stossel of Fox Business Network.
I hope you’ve received our invitation and plan to join us.
I took a stroll down Memory Lane today and visited our Friday Fax archives, reading some from back when we faxed them to donors on a weekly basis. (Now they’re the “Friday Facts,” and if you’re reading this, you’re on the list already!)
One Friday Fax, January 22, 1999, we devoted entirely to President Bill Clinton’s budget. We reminded our readers how he said, three years earlier during his State of the Union speech, “The era of big government is over.”
I’m sharing that Friday Fax for you to see for yourself. Big government wasn’t over for this nation … and, as you know, it’s only gotten worse.
Then I consider, with great pride, what’s happened with government in Georgia.
Did you know? Adjusted for population growth and inflation, Georgia government spending is the same as it was in 1996.
I’m a little biased, but I think the Georgia Public Policy Foundation deserves much of the credit. We’ve highlighted, fought and thwarted innumerable government spending boondoggles. We’ve brought cost-saving ideas to Georgia – from privatization in our first five years to criminal justice reform over the last five years. We’ve been the voice of taxpayers, small businesses and families and triumphed despite being outmanned and outspent by special interests and defenders of the status quo.
We’ve been around since 1991, working to share our message of limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise through the state and across the nation. As Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute noted:
One of the great things about the conservative movement is it not a top-down movement. It’s really a bottom-up movement, a grassroots movement, and what goes on in the states, what goes on in the cities, what goes on in the communities in the neighborhoods – that’s what is supposed to filter up. So what we’re going to see in Washington, D.C. … is the best is coming out of here. And I can tell you the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is leading the way. This is truly one of the leading lights in the state think tank movement. Excellent ideas. It’s well run. For those of you who are donors I congratulate you on your wisdom and I encourage you to do it and do it more.
That’s remarkable praise from one of the leaders of the free-market movement.
Closer to home, accolades abound, too:
“For those of you that will be entering the Legislature or are relatively new you may not quite yet appreciate how much we rely on Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s research and work. As you know we’re a citizen’s legislature. We have very little staff. They have been an invaluable, invaluable resource to us.” – Georgia Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones
“The Foundation’s positions are well thought out and are often ahead of their time.” – Georgia State Sen. Jack Hill
“The Foundation always tells the truth.” – Governor Roy Barnes
“If you look back on several things that you were crying in the wilderness about several years ago, you will find that Governor Miller adopted them … your influence and your pressure on that process has been a major factor in governmental policy in Georgia. You should be congratulated.” – Governor Sonny Perdue
“I first ran for the Senate in 1994, and the Foundation was that resource I called upon to be a great help to me as we were articulating positions and formulating public policy initiatives.” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle
“The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity.” – Gov. Nathan Deal
We have a lot to celebrate. In education. Health care. Tax reform. Transportation. Criminal justice reform. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation planted the seeds and set the roots for reforms that continue to grow (some more slowly than others!). Not only did we propose, good policies, we worked to prevent bad ideas.
Looking back on our accomplishments over the years, I’m so proud of the amazing support team that made it possible: staff, Board of Trustees’ members, academic fellows, Advisory Board members and those who contributed time and dollars because they believe in the return on their investment.
Nearly 300 of our friends and supporters have already committed to joining our 25th birthday celebration on Veterans Day: to hear John Stossel’s post-election wisdom; to honor Dr. Michael H. Mescon as we award him the prestigious Freedom Award, and to hear the “Singing Soldier,” U.S. Army Maj. Carlos Morgan (ret.) perform a rousing, Veterans Day National Anthem. Are you joining us?
A reminder: We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research group. If you wonder why you don’t see our fingerprints much, it’s because we don’t care who gets the credit for our policy proposals.
Many Georgians wonder how we do it. Allow me to share one of my favorite analogies, from my friend Joseph Lehman of Michigan’s state think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
When lawmakers change public policy to favor liberty, they are only taking the final step in a long march.
Watching what lawmakers accomplish in the Legislature is like watching a football game through a hole in the fence that only lets you see the goal line. The possibility of scoring is usually determined by what already happened far off the field.
The guys who carry the ball across the goal line do get the glory, the best endorsement deals and the photo opps and the fan clubs.
But without the guys who set them up to make the big play, there wouldn’t be much scoring going on. Off the field and further away from the goal line glory is where ideas begin their march toward becoming public policy.
Those ideas are developed and communicated by think tanks.
I thank you for your support through the years. We’d be honored if you’ll join our celebration on Friday, November 11. Find information here. Please don’t hesitate to call or email me with questions.
President and CEO
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
 Georgia State University study: The state is spending at 1996 levels on an inflation adjusted per capita basis.