Carol Fullerton, Georgia State Representative, District 151, supports state funding of a Language, Performing and Visual Arts Center at Albany State University. According to the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, the Center would mean an estimated economic impact of $58 million for the community.
ALBANY, Ga. — One by one, Georgia lawmakers offered brief thoughts on the coming Georgia legislative session in Atlanta. The occasion was Wednesday’s Albany Area Chamber of Commerce Rise n Shine Breakfast, and the presentation of the chamber’s official 2013 legislative agenda.
Speakers included state Reps. Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert, of District 149; Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, of District 150; Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, of District 151, and Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, of District 152, as well as state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, of District 12.
According to issued material of the Albany Area Chamber, its official 2013 agenda includes under the broad category of Economic and Workforce Development the continued support of the sustainability of Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, recognizing the facility as a “driving force” in the local economy and urging “federal intervention” to prevent catastrophic downsizing of Southwest Georgia military installations.
Along those lines, the chamber supports establishment of a sustainable source of state funding to four-lane Georgia Highway 133 from Albany to Valdosta, where it would join the base to Interstate Highway 75, a major artery for MCLB-Albany to and from ports. Funding to complete key corridors, to include U.S. Highway 27, would be sought as well.
“Transportation is the hub of all our businesses, and we need to move forward on this,” Greene said. “We need to make sure we take care of business in our community.”
Also in the area of economics and workforce is support of the $28.8 million in state funding to construct an Albany State University Language, Performing and Visual Arts Center. According to the chamber, establishment of the center would mean an estimated economic impact of $58 million the the region. Originally to be named for the late Ray Charles, Fullerton said a recent lawsuit brought by the Charles Foundation and a subsequent loss of funding has changed that. Still, she said, there is optimism that money for the Center will available in 2013.
“If you have any questions about whether we need that (center) at Albany State, please call me any time,” Fullerton said, “and I’ll take you by the hand and walk you through what they are currently dealing with.”
To support Southwest Georgia business, the chamber endorsed dedicated funding for rural economic development and agribusiness. Also supported was development of a “uniform and unambiguous” hotel/motel tax code, which, according to the chamber, will ensure appropriate funding of tourism promotion in Southwest Georgia. Decreases in state funding for tourism will be opposed.
In the area of health and wellness, the chamber supports flexibility for businesses to tailor their own employee benefit plans and opposes any new government-run insurance plan or exchange that may result in the shifting of additional health care costs to employers. The Southwest Georgia Chamber Council, a coalition of 22 counties, presented an agenda similar to that of the Albany chamber.
Several of the representatives in attendance favored expanding Georgia’s Medicaid participation and continuation of the so-called “bed tax,” passed in 2010 for the purpose of obtaining needed levels of federal funding of indigent care.
The bed tax “is the only tax I ever voted for,” Dukes said. “Expansion of Medicaid in Georgia will bring some $33 billion to the state over the next 10 years. It’s an enormous stimulus and it will build more business.”
Powell-Sims agreed with the Duke’s assessment of Medicaid expansion, calling health care for the indigent “one of the greatest challenges of our state legislature.”
“The numbers say it all,” the senator said, “In 2010, our state faced one of the largest Medicaid deficits in history with a $600 million difference in the funds that were available and the services that were needed. Medicaid expansion would provide 100 percent federal coverage of the costs of new enrollees for two years, then it drops to 90 percent coverage in subsequent years.”
Rynders said the $600 million deficit on Medicaid was “why we’re afraid to expand it.”
He said he would be asking for about a 3 percent reduction in the current budget “across the board,” despite what he called a recent uptick in revenues.
“I get very nervous when I hear someone say, ‘We’ll find the money,’” Rynders said.