Downtown Sertoma Club's Bryan Bartholomew speaks with Senator Freddie Powell-Sims during Thursday's meeting downtown.
ALBANY — Although the percentage of revenue trickling into the state’s coffers have grown by double digits, State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims says legislators should continue to trim government “smartly” to ensure prosperity.
Sims, who represents a growing geographical swath of Southwest Georgia which will now include Stewart, Webster and half of Sumter County following redistricting, is up for reelection this year and has been the senator of District 12 since 2008.
Thursday, Sims told members of the Downtown Sertoma Club that, while state revenues are increasing at pace faster than expected, that government should stay the course and remain fiscally conservative.
“We’ve had to do what most families have had to do and that’s cut our spending,” Sims said. “You have to take a look at things that are working and things that aren’t because, you know, government spends a lot of money, and if we don’t keep that in check, then we’ll spend our way right back into trouble.”
Sims said that the state revenues had grown by 11 percent last year — a pace that many economists weren’t predicting this soon after the recession.
Revenues from personal income taxes and sales taxes were up, she said, but corporate income taxes had dipped.
“You know why that is, don’t you?” She asked. “More corporations are receiving tax breaks in hopes that they’ll take that money they’re saving and use it to expand their businesses and hire more people. That’s the incentive anyways. I agree with incentivizing corporations but if you take that revenue out of circulation from the corporations, it has to come from somewhere.”
Sims, who is on the Senate’s Retirement Subcommittee, also spoke of changes to the state employees pension program.
The changes have prompted concerns among state employees, she says, because it allows the state to place up to 5 percent of the pension fund into a more risky investment strategy.
“Employees are concerned because this is money they’ve put into the program; there might have been a match or something along the way, but, for the most part, this is their money and we’ve decided to put it into a more risky investment strategy,” Sims said. “The good thing is that the program will come back before the senate each year so that we can make the necessary changes if something goes awry.”
Sims also reminded those in the room, whick included several city and county government officials, to get politically active and keep involved with what’s going on in Atlanta.
“If you don’t say what needs to be done in Southwest Georgia, they forget about us in Atlanta,” Sims said. “It’s getting tougher and tougher to make sure the voices of Southwest Georgia are heard in the metro area.”
Sims also expressed her dissatisfaction with the passage of a last-minute bill that cuts the amount of time a person can legally have an abortion from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. Sims and many of her female and Democratic colleagues walked out of the House and Senate when the vote on the bill was held on the last day of the session.
This week, Sims likely dodged a political bullet when longterm Democratic Sen. George Hooks of Americus decided against seeking an 18th term.
During the redistricting process, GOP leaders drew Sims’ and Hook’s districts together, forcing the two to run against one another for the seat.