“Over the past year, we’ve traveled around Georgia listening to Georgians and gathering ideas on ways to make this state the most competitive it can be in terms of jobs,” he said. “I think a new tax policy is a way we can do that.”
Guests at Gordon County’s annual Chamber banquet heard a first-hand account of Georgia’s legislative goals for the year from keynote speaker Ralston Thursday evening at the 52nd annual Chamber of Commerce Meeting and Officer Installation Banquet.
Ralston said he has studied what other states, such as California and Illinois, are doing to modify their tax policies during difficult economic times. However, he stressed, these observations of other states’ policies will not stand as models for Georgia, based on the fact that they are imperfect.
Ralston presented some states’ actions as examples of what not to do.
“The state of California has raised every tax they possibly could,” he said. “The result is that small businesses have been closing out there and moving to other states at fairly fast rates.”
Ralston said he has also been looking into how large companies are taxed and used Illinois’ controversial taxation on the Caterpillar company as an example of a negative approach.
“Just this past legislative session, in March, an article was brought in from the Wall Street Journal that said the largest private employer (Caterpillar) in Illinois has publicly threatened to leave the state because of the tax burden it has put on them,” he said. “So, I wrote the president of Caterpillar, and I said if it gets any worse call me, and I’ll come get you and take you to Georgia.”
Ralston said he has designated a congressional committee this year to look into what regulations business have to operate under in Georgia and to make sure those regulations or taxes are reasonable and not burdens.
Expanding upon past sessions
Ralston said he was met with the worse budget shortfall in Georgia since the Great Depression when he was elected by his peers as Speaker of the House in December 2009.
He said he was faced with the task of reducing the state’s spending budget.
He said he and local congressmen at the time, John Meadows, (R-Calhoun) and U.S. Rep Tom Graves, (R- Ranger), “made tough unpopular decisions” about cutting the state’s budget and plan to do the same this year.
This year’s plan for moderate spending is simple.
“I’m sure you practice it in your home or in your business, and that is you don’t spend more than you make,” Ralston said. “That’s how we are going to balance the budget this year.”
Ralston said Congress has cut out about 20 percent of the state’s budget in the last three fiscal years. However, since Georgia has had steady revenue increases during the last 18 months, he said he hopes this year that legislators won’t have to make large cuts to the budget.
“Maybe instead of an axe to the budget this year we can use a pair of scissors,” he said.
Ralston also said he wants to continue working on passing fewer laws, something he put Meadows (who was present at the banquet, along with Graves) in charge of last year.
“For the first time in 10 or 15 years we passed the fewest number of bills out of the House of Representatives with this man (Meadows) who is chairman of the Rules committee,” he said. “I’m proud of this.”
He also said he challenged Meadows to pass even fewer laws this year.
“I don’t have people running up to me saying ‘Ya’ll need to pass a lot more laws,’” he said. “In fact, I hear the opposite.”
Ralston ended his speech by sharing his optimistic viewpoint of Georgia’s future.
“We’ve got a lot to do to progress in Georgia,” he said, “but I’m one of those people that believe our brightest days are still ahead of us.”
After Ralston’s address, 2011 Chamber Board Chairman Dewayne Bowen passed the gavel to the new 2012 Chairman David Scoggins.
Scoggins said taking the post is an honor, and he said he hopes to ”give back to the community that has given him so much.”
Gordon County Chamber officers:
David Scoggins (Winter & Scoggins, CPAs, PC) - Chair
Kenny Fuquea (Santek Waste Services) - Vice Chair
David Repp (Mohawk Industries) - Secretary/Treasurer
Dewayne Bowen (Edward Jones) -
Board of directors:
Chrissy Bryant (Milliken & Company)
Kelly Bumgardner (Calhoun City Schools)
Scott Clements (Gordon County Tax Commissioner)
Russell Davis (Mohawk Industries)
Nathan Murphy (NorthSide Bank of Calhoun)
Amy Parker (Gordon County Schools)
Charles Prater (Prater Ford, Inc.)
Suzanne Roland (Calhoun Downtown Development Authority),
Raina Sanford (Gordon Hospital),
Frank Sullivan (Transportation Executive, retired)
Clint Thomas (Shaw Industries Group)
Bill Thompson (Attorney at Law).