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Handel campaigning on budget, ethics reform

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY -- Secretary of State and 2010 GOP Gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel discussed the state's budget concerns and the need for a stricter ethics code for legislatures with members from the Dougherty County Rotary Club Tuesday.

Handel said the state will need to tighten purse strings even more in the coming year as revenue declines throughout the state. However, she said the state should see the positive side of trimming budgets.

"It is a tremendous opportunity to transform what we are doing and focus on the mission critical," said Handel.

She said focus should be placed on priority programs like education, health care and law enforcement with duplicate programs and services eliminated.

"We have lost the concept of problem solving in our state," said Handel. "We need to be outcome focused at the table."

She said if the government would systematically search through agencies and prioritize spending, budget cuts would be more simplified.

"Being focused on a core mission is how we can do this efficiently," said Handel. "We need to get down to a detailed level, in the Secretary of State's office we have found duplication within our own division."

Handel discussed the need for politicians to uphold a strict code of ethics and make government actions more transparent for the public. She issued a statement last week asking for the resignation of former House Speaker Glenn Richardson for his "improper relationship" with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist at the same time he was co-sponsoring legislation sought by the utility in 2007. Richardson resigned Thursday.

As governor, Handel said she hoped to place a ban on gifts more than $25 for elected officials. Handel said she would also make the Georgia Open Records Act apply to the Legislature as it does to all state agencies.

"We need that kind of ethics reform in the state legislature," said Handel, who also hopes as governor to require all legislators to file a Conflict of Interest Statement with the State Ethics Commission, which will serve as the clearinghouse and repository of the statements and will be required to post them online.

"When 25 percent of the Secretary of State employees are related, that's not good for doing business," she added.

Handel said careful investments should be made throughout the state to attract new business and support current businesses.

"We need to make sure that when big companies want to grow they look to Georgia," she said. "We need to make sure they want to stay here as well. Tax incentives is an investment for the future of jobs."