For a while, in one way or another, several of us have been talking about devising a way to create a database of all elected Democrats in Georgia, to assist us with candidate recruitment, GOTV and other activities that we ought to be able to help coordinate on a statewide basis. Several people have expressed interest and have begun working on this is one way or another. Bernita has been working away, and while I think I will keep the details quiet for now, this gal's on to something that has great potential. Thanks, Bernita. You go girl!Sphere: Related Content
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I've been doing a whole lot of thinking lately about the things that divide Georgia Democrats. For instance, in terms of message, there are those who think that we should pursue a more conservative agenda, and those who think a more progressive agenda is the answer. When it comes to campaigning, some say that we should do a better job of supporting grassroots, and others say that we should raise more money.
I personally reject the idea that we must choose between our strengths. Conservative Democrats and Progressive Democrats share much common ground when it comes to issues like public safety, raising the minimum wage, supporting public schools and making sure all of our children have access to health care. We have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves from Georgia Republicans who are struggling with the factions in their own party in an effort to put forward an agenda that will not make the average Georgian squeamish. Unlike Republicans, Georgia Democrats ought to focus on the kitchen table issues where we have broad agreement-and broad support among the voters.
Neither do we have to choose between focusing on grassroots or focusing on fundraising. Good grassroots organizing costs money, and fundraising is crucial to the future of the party. So the answer is "yes" to grassroots and "yes" to fundraising. Consider this, in states that were more successful than Georgia during the last cycle, their caucuses were also more successful in fundraising, with some raising in excess of a million dollars. Because of that, polling and mail was provided in virtually every race, and for targeted races, television was added. Yes, candidates still took the brunt of the responsibility for raising their money, but when the coffers for the party and the caucuses are more full, there is more flexibility for everyone.
Bridging our differences doesn't mean that we fail to fight the tough battles. But, rather than moving to the right or moving to the left, we need to find our moral center and, as Jim Wallis says, go deeper. This is not the same as living in the squishy middle of the road. Instead, it is about taking principled stands that pass the test of being both moral and just. As John Edwards has said, if we want to live in a just and moral world, then we can't wait for someone else to do it: we have to do it. That's not only how we win, it's frankly the only way winning is worth the battle.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Without flinching, today, the Bush administration recommended placing polar bears on the endangered species list. That's sort of like a arsonist installing a smoke detector isn't it?Sphere: Related Content
It's that time of the year again. You know, the time when the guilt over the indulgences of Christmas creeps up on us, and we resolve to swear off sugar, get back to the gym and in general tame one or more of our vices. Seldom do New Year's Resolutions "take", but, still, this is a good time for assessment and an opportunity for change. Since change is something that the DPG must do in order to become effective, over the next few days, I'm going to post a few suggested New Year's resolutions for the DPG. I do this recognizing that this is an organization to which I, and many of you, belong. So, this is less about what I think "they" should do, and more about what I think "we" should do. I will post one resolution a day for the next few days. Please chime in with your comments and your own proposed "resolutions" for the party. I will move the best of the lot to the front page.
Here's mine for today:
The Democratic Party of Georgia will do a better job of building relationships, and we will no longer neglect our best 'natural resource' for candidate recruitment.
Instead, we will reach out to locally elected Democrats and Democratic organizations in all 159 Georgia counties (sheriff's, county commissioners, school board members and others). We will come to the table with resources to help build mutually beneficial relationships, better coordinate candidate recruitment, field planning and GOTV efforts.
Now, what's your suggestion?
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
CNN is reporting that former President Gerald Ford has died at age 93. Ford is the only person to serve as both President and Vice President who was never elected, and he was perhaps the last 'moderate' Republican President. Many think that when he pardoned Nixon, he did what was necessary to heal the nation and at the same time sealed his own fate in the coming election.
I was a young teenager during the Watergate years, and there is no question that watching those hearings and engaging in discussions with my family about what we ought to be able to expect from those who govern shaped my own politics. I remember that my parents were glad to see Nixon go- seeing it as a citizen's victory, and they were not pleased to see him pardoned. Yet, years later, when Ford won the Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award, Sen.Ted Kennedy referred to that decision as one that was courageous and necessary to allow the country to heal. Ford put the interest of the nation ahead of his own political future. I'd say that's not a bad example for politicans today.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Edwards latest YouTube episodes are as good as the first. I think that people will respond to what's real and will respect someone who is willing to trust the American people with the truth. This is powerful, progressive, personal politics.
This Friday, December 29th, you are invited to hear journalist Tom Crawford apply his thirty years of experience covering Georgia politics to an analysis of the upcoming legislative session as he speaks to "Politics and Lunch" in Macon.
Tom is the editor for the online news service, Capitol Impact, political writer for Georgia Trend and frequent guest on GPTV's "The Lawmakers." The luncheon is open to the public, and people of various political persuasions are welcome. The luncheon seeks, through great speakers on a variety of topics, to connect the dots between politics, public policy and quality of life in our community.
All are welcome, but reservations for this special event are requested and can be made by contacting me at email@example.com. The luncheon is at noon at Nashville Station, 1015 Riverside Drive in Macon. The only cost, $10.00, is for your lunch and is paid to the restaurant at the time of the event.
We are very, very excited to have Tom with us on Friday. Here's a brief, but very impressive biography:
Tom Crawford has been involved in Georgia politics for more than 30 years, covering his first General Assembly session in 1974 when the governor, a fellow named Jimmy Carter, was squabbling with the lieutenant governor, a former restaurant owner named Lester Maddox.
Tom was a newspaper reporter and editor for 11 years with the Atlanta Journal, the Montgomery Advertiser and the Marietta Daily Journal. He wrote about government and politics at the state and local levels during that period, getting to know some of the colorful characters who have defined Southern politics.
He maintained his involvement in the political scene after leaving newspaper journalism, working as a speechwriter and public relations adviser in the late 1980s and 1990s. He returned to political reporting in 2000 as the editor of the online news service Capitol Impact, where he covers the General Assembly and all aspects of Georgia politics. He is a frequent guest analyst for "The Lawmakers" on Georgia Public Television and writes a monthly political column for Georgia Trend magazine.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
In this holiday season, am I the only one who sees the irony in how Perdue has dealt with his taxes vrs. how Mary and Jospeh dealt with their obligation? Joseph and a very pregnant Mary traveled from Galilee to Bethlehem to pay their taxes. Perdue apparently sent his money to Florida to avoid paying his. Joseph went to a lot of trouble to pay his taxes while Sonny went to great lengths to avoid paying his.
And Republicans want you to believe that they are the party that embraces Christian values. That's quite a disconnect. Here's the text from the Gospel of Luke:
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her a firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I had heard that Doug Stoner might run for 1st Vice Chair, and tonight I got an e-mail from him announcing that he was, in fact, a candidate for that post. I believe that others who have filed include Danita Knowles, Angela Moore and Sen. Gloria Butler. Danita sent out an announcement a week or so ago. Who else is running for this post?Sphere: Related Content
Tonight, we launched the website for my campaign for DPG Candidate Recruitment Vice-Chair. Many thanks to all who helped to create the site. You know who you are! And thanks, once again, to Melanie, over at Blog for Democracy for tonight's post announcing the site launch. The support and offers of help I have received from people all over the state has been gratifying, to say the very least. The best part is that I know that all of those who are helping me now are also invested in helping with the work of recruiting great candidates and electing Democrats!
I hope that you will take a moment to check out the site , learn a little bit more about me and about my ideas for candidate recruitment, and sign up to be listed as a supporter. I'd love to hear your ideas for how we can do a better job of electing Democrats in Georgia.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Sen. Eric Johnson has prefiled legislation that would offer scholarships (read: vouchers) to disabled children who wish to attend private schools, and he has already embarked on a public relations campaign advocating for his idea. Well, it's really not actually his idea. They have tried a similar program in Florida. (Yes, that's right, Florida, the state whose school voucher law was declared unconstitutional.) What Johnson really wants is a broad school voucher program, so why doesn't he just say that? Well, because Georgia is "politically"not ready for school vouchers, or so he has said. So, he's hoping that folks will not look too closely at this seriously flawed bill, and he is hoping to pit parents against teachers and administrators- an all too familiar battle that parents of disabled children face.
Consider this: as this bill is written, for a private school to qualify as a place taxpayers would pay for a disabled child to be educated, the school does not have to demonstrate that they have an appropriate program for a given child. They only have to demonstrate one thing: that the school is financially solvent. That tells me all I need to know about this legislation. Sen. Johnson is using disabled children as a smokescreen in his attempt to make vouchers a reality in Georgia, and that's just wrong.
Monday, December 18, 2006
As many of your know, I am running for Candidate Recruitment Vice-Chair for the Democratic Party of Georgia. I believe that we have an historic opportunity to elect more great Democrats at every level of government. While Republicans are busy wiping small towns and cities off Georgia's map, Democrats can win by reaching out to people in every town and every city in all 159 of our counties. Below is an outline of a proposed strategy to do just that. I'd be interested in your thoughts and comments.
The 159 County Strategy
There is no task more important for Georgia Democrats than electing more great candidates at every level of government. To do this, we must fundamentally change the way we do business by embracing a 159 County Strategy. We should engage in:
1) Developing Relationships: There are a great many local Democratic organizations and locally elected Democrats in Georgia (sheriffs, county commissioners, school board members and others.) Politically speaking, these individuals and groups are our greatest, and most neglected, “natural resource.” By reaching out to reach out to them and building mutually beneficial relationships, we will be able to better coordinate candidate recruitment, field planning and GOTV efforts. We should:
* Create and maintain a central database of all elected Democrats in Georgia.
* Routinely reach out to these individuals though regional listen sessions, newsletters, and web-based technologies.
* Meaningfully engage them in the candidate identification process, early on.
* Track elections at all levels and identify open seats and seats held by non-democrats, and assist in candidate recruitment for all offices, local and state-level.
* Work hand in hand with the House and Senate Caucuses to identify potential candidates for the 2008 election cycle.
2) Embracing Technology: We must discover and embrace the best available technology to help connect Democrats to one another and to help identify potential candidates. Candidates and local Democratic organizations also need access to technology to help with communication, targeting and micro-targeting. We should:
* At the local level, provide access to computers and the web-based technology.
* Use the best technology to help focus resources and assist candidates.
* Improve and update our web presence.
3) Providing Training: We need to develop and routinely provide state of the art training for candidates, campaign staff and volunteers. We should:
*Create a Democratic Leadership Training Program where current leaders and those with great promise can come together to learn.
*Create Training Manuals for candidates, campaign staff and volunteers
*Examine successful training programs provided by other states and other organizations.
4) Setting our Sights on the Senate: In 2008, we have an opportunity to elect a Democrat to the United States Senate. If we are to be successful, we must bring together the best political minds to help encourage and support a nominee who can be successful. We should:
*Bring together the best political minds from all parts of Georgia to form a Blue Ribbon Coalition charged with helping to identify potential candidates for U.S. Senate and other state-level offices.
*Develop a 159 County Strategy to support for the eventual nominee.
These are some of my thoughts. What about you? On the issue of candidate recruitment, how do we win? I note that there is nothing here about fundraising, and clearly, nothing happens without the cash! We must raise lots and lots of money.
Mel, over at Blog for Democracy, has the first in a series of John Edwards YouTube offerings. It rocks. No kidding.
I heard Edwards speak recently in Atlanta, and he was, as always, a great speaker. The message has changed, in my opinion, as a result of his experiences both personally and in the last campaign. He says he'd rather win or loose as himself, not as a Ken doll who plays it safe in front of the crowd. How refreshing.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Over on Cracker Squire, Sid Cottingham has weighed in on my candidacy for DPG Candidate Recruitment Vice-Chair. Sid is, himself, "one hard-working Democrat!" Thanks, Sid!Sphere: Related Content
Senator Chambliss is on record in the Athens Banner Herald opposing a time line for withdrawal from Iraq, instead saying that the criteria for victory has changed. Here's what he had to say. If you can follow his logic, you're doing better than me:
"The degree of how bad it's going is where (Democrats and Republicans) might disagree," Chambliss said after Friday's fall commencement at the University of Georgia, for which he gave the keynote address. "From a military perspective, we are winning the war."
But a successful military operation does not ensure victory - "we can't say that about any other war," he said. "In this conflict, victory means training the Iraqi military to the point where they're able to protect the Iraqi citizens from the threat of an outside force ... and train the Iraqi police until they are at a point where they can protect citizens from domestic threats."
American troops continue to take out bad guys every day, "but that doesn't win a war for us," said Chambliss, who sits on the Senate Armed Services and Select Intelligence committees, as well as the Agriculture Committee."
What? Are these the same Iraqi police who recently stood by as worshipers were pulled out of a mosque and burned to death? This meaningless double-talk is just one of the reasons the right candidate can so beat this guy. Sphere: Related Content
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Friday, December 15, 2006
Here's a front page promotion. Rep. McKillip, who has prefiled legislation to extend a version of the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit to state income tax, requests your help in appealing to your local legislative delegations. Here is his comment:
1 Comment -
Show Original Post
Rep. Doug McKillip said...
Thanks for posting this. I campaigned on this issue for nine months, and have encouraged local governments to add it to their priorities for the legislature, and many, including Athens, have. It will life some Georgians out of poverty (not everyone who receives the credit), but some. I encourage you to contact your local legislators in support of this Bill. Thanks again! Doug.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
As Melanie has correctly reported, I am running for Candidate Recruitment Vice-Chair for the DPG. I filed the required paperwork today, and we are in the process of constructing a website. For the past several years, less formally, I have been engaged in recruiting great candidates and believe that there is no task more important for Georgia Democrats. We must fundamentally change the way we have approached this work by embracing a 159 County Strategy to partner with locally elected Democrats to identify, mentor and ultimately elect great candidates at every level of government. I have no interest in simply serving on another board or having a title. There is a great deal of work to be done, and I hope to have the opportunity to do that work, as a part of a great team!Sphere: Related Content
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
My husband, Daryl Morton, practices disability law, and I asked him to comment on the attempt by Georgia Republicans to slip vouchers in the door under the guise of helping disabled children. He reviewed the proposed, very troubling law, and his comments are below:
The full text of the bill, Senate Bill 10, is available at
The bill states that “students with disabilities have special needs that merit educational alternatives which will allow students to learn in an appropriate setting and manner”. The bill also characterizes the payments to private schools as being “scholarships” and claims that they are not vouchers. The “scholarship” amount is equal to the amount of the services the disabled child is receiving in their current public school or the cost of private school tuition, whichever is less.
Existing federal special education law, namely the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), can already require public schools to pay private school fees where the district cannot or will not provide the services the disabled child needs. Normally, such “private schools” would be institutions that help children with severe disabilities. Once the child was there, the public school system would still have an obligation to monitor to progress of the child to make sure his or her needs were being met. However, as a general rule, the generic “private school” is not subject to IDEA.
Under the proposed law, the student must already have been determined to have a qualifying disability under IDEA. At that point, the state must pay for that student to attend a qualifying private school upon request from the parent.
No doubt a parent of a disabled child would assume that the private school would provide the special education services the child needs. However, the proposed law provides no such assurances.
First, the law makes clear that the acceptance of the “scholarship” would constitute a “parental refusal to consent to services pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Act”. Therefore, accepting the scholarship seems to require the parent to declare that their child is no longer in need of special education services. Further, to be an “eligible private school” that could receive disabled students, the proposed law requires little more than the school be solvent enough to expect to be able to operate during the upcoming school year. In fact, there is no requirement that the private school provide any special education services, and the law contains the ominous proviso that “ the creation of this program shall not be construed to expand the regulatory authority of the state… to impose any additional regulation of nonpublic schools beyond those reasonably necessary to enforce the requirements of this article”.
It is clear that Senator Johnson wants to introduce vouchers disguised as “scholarships” and is counting on its purported purpose of helping “disabled” children as making it unpopular to oppose. Moreover, the bill creates the illusion that private schools are truly willing and capable of providing adequate services to disabled children. I have always said that if private schools agreed to subject themselves to the provisions of IDEA in order to receive funds, I would gladly give them a shot. This law does nothing but drain valuable resources from our public schools that do the often thankless job of attending to our most vulnerable children, and entice parents to abandon good special education programs for the lure of private schools that will probably offer nothing of substance.
Remember the source of this legislation, Georgia Republicans. All you need to know about their commitment to disabled children is their callous removal of 2000 families of disabled children from the Katie Beckett Medicaid program with no safety net for those families. Why should their intentions be any different now? Sphere: Related Content
Recently, the words, "Not on My Dime" were on the cover of the AJC. The article that followed was about an women who gave her immigrant staff Spanish to English dictionaries for Christmas along with a mandate that they not speak Spanish on the job. Just between us, I'm betting they would've rather had cash. This push to make English the official language in Georgia is the reddest of herrings, designed to capture the front page and the attention of voters while the legislature is busy with the really boring, but critical issues like changing the tax code and reforming the courts.
The "official language" issues is a perfect example of a platform designed to fuel "brain stem voting." Such an issue appeals to our most basic survival instincts: fear, fight, flight, identity etc. but often makes little sense. Brain stem voting is why people vote against their own economic self interest and in favor of the guy they identify with or "like." In the end, it matters little if at all when it comes to real quality of life issues in our State. Don't be fooled.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Clay Cox's bill to allow for the election of local school superintendents is an Awful idea. Yes, Awful. This will probably be popular legislation because everyone thinks that they are an expert on education, but local school boards, who are already elected and accountable to the voters, need to have the freedom to review the resumes and choose the best professional to lead their districts. And superintendents, who often have to make tough, unpopular decisions regarding things like redistricting or hiring and firing, should not be subject to the whim of voters. There are also issues with the role partisanship would play as well as the prospect of how these campaigns would be funded- in other words, do we want school superintendents who are beholding to their donors? I don't think so.Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Amy Morton at 9:22 AM
Newly elected state legislator, Doug McKillip, is on to something. At the urging of Athens mayor, Heidi Davison, McKillip has prefiled legislation that would extend the Federal Earned Income tax Credit to Georgia's state income tax. In other words, the poorest Georgians, many of who work, would get a break on their state income tax.
While this will not quite as McKillip suggests, lift Georgians out of poverty, it is a step in the right direction in a state where, according to the nonpartisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the poorest fifth of families pay 12 percent of their income in state and local sales, income and property taxes. The middle fifth pays 10 percent, and the wealthiest 1 percent pay 7.5 percent. Georgia has one of the most regressive tax codes in the nation, and since Republicans are intent on addressing it this session, McKillip has done us all a great service by helping to frame the debate and offering legislation that just makes good sound economic sense.
Here's the article:
Bill would extend tax credits (Athens Banner Herald)
By Blake Aued firstname.lastname@example.org Story updated at 12:49 AM on Saturday, December 9, 2006
Poor workers would get a break on their state income taxes under a bill proposed by newly elected state Rep. Doug McKillip, D-Athens.
McKillip pre-filed a bill last week that would extend the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to state income taxes. The bill will be considered when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January.
"If you're a working guy making $10 an hour, $20,000 a year, trying to raise a family of four, this puts about 215 bucks in your pocket," McKillip said. "It's going the take somebody and raise them out of poverty."
According to the nonpartisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, 771,000 of Georgia's 3.5 million taxpayers made an Earned Income Tax Credit claim averaging about $1,900 in 2002. In 2004, the maximum benefit was $4,300.
The state credit would be equal to 5 percent of the federal credit.
"This is just another boost for those individuals who are in a certain income bracket to put some of their money back in their pockets," said Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison, who asked McKillip to introduce the bill.
"Our (state legislators) need to help in our poverty efforts," Davison said. "This is a good way for them to do that."
The credit would be especially welcome in Athens, which has a 28 percent poverty rate and a median income of about $28,000 a year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Sixty-five percent of Athenians living in poverty are working, according to Partners for a Prosperous Athens.
It would dovetail with Athens Housing Authority efforts to get more low-income workers to take advantage of the federal credit, Davison said. AHA officials began a program in the Rocksprings Home public housing project, where many of the poorest Athenians live, to encourage residents to claim the EITC. They hope to sign up 250 people next year for federal credits topping $1 million, she said.
The tax credit also would help reverse the regressive nature of state and local taxes in Georgia, according to budget and policy institute. The poorest fifth of families pay 12 percent of their income in state and local sales, income and property taxes. The middle fifth pays 10 percent, and the wealthiest 1 percent pay 7.5 percent.
Other advantages are that the Earned Income Tax Credit is tied to inflation and provides an incentive to work, according to institute.
The tax credit would cost the state between $60 million and $70 million, according to the GBPI. The state's total tax revenue in fiscal 2006 was $16.2 billion. The cost will be offset by the tendency of poor people to spend, rather than save, tax refunds, McKillip said.
"Most of these people are going to put the money right back into the economy," he said.
Democratic leaders in the state House of Representatives, where all revenue bills must originate, already have signed off on the tax credit, McKillip said. The freshman lawmaker said he also plans on approaching moderate Republicans for support, and selling them on the idea as a possible stepping stone to eliminating all state income taxes.
GOP leaders have listed as a goal for the next two years abolishing the state income tax and either replacing it with a sales tax or cutting services.
Posted by Amy Morton at 9:04 AM
Friday, December 08, 2006
This is fun, and particularly meaningful for this time of the year. And one of the guys looks a lot like Sen. Staton.
Posted by Amy Morton at 2:40 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The AJC article titled, "State Faces Crunch Over Retiree Costs" does not contain all the information that was included in the the Associated Press article on the same subject.
Unlike the AJC article, in addition to detailing the gravity of the economic crunch, the AP piece makes it clear, through timeline reporting reflecting email correspondence obtained through open records requests, that cutting health benefits of state retirees is a move that Perdue has anticipated for some time, and a move contemplated by Perdue prior to the election.
Why does this matter? Because Perdue was elected in the first place because teachers voted for him and remains in office on the heels of touting the elimination of income tax for seniors. Yet, at the same time he was making this proposal, the Georgia Attorney General was drafting an opinion on whether the Department of Community Health could tinker with state retiree benefits. What the AP piece makes clear is the hypocrisy of Governor Perdue and the rest of the Georgia Republicans who knew the truth and did not tell it.
This is not just an economic crunch. It is that, but it is also a colossal deception, a bait and switch to Georgia voters who were courted for months and told that they might as well vote for the Republicans because, after all, the economy was great. Sure, my budget would look great, too, if I didn't have to keep my promises and fulfill my obligations. It is not fine to balance our budget, swim in a surplus and promise tax cuts when the State is actively contemplating bailing on our most basic promises to our seniors who have served this State. They are not expendable. This is a choice, and this was a secret. And the AP piece names the names of those involved, starting with Governor Perdue.
So, above, I have linked the AJC article, and below, I have posted the entire Associated Press piece. Draw your own conclusions.
The cost is so staggering that Gov. Sonny Perdue is considering hiking premiums or eliminating health care benefits altogether for state retirees, according to e-mails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.
Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan said the state is awaiting a report from an outside actuary detailing the full costs of the benefits over the next 30 years.
"At this time it would be irresponsible to rule anything in or out," McLagan said Wednesday.
A draft analysis issued in March and obtained by AP through an open records request estimated the price tag for the non-pension health benefits at $17.6 billion over the next three decades. To put that figure in perspective, it's just $1 billion less than the state of Georgia's total budget this fiscal year.
Another estimate placed the cost at between $15 billion and $20 billion. The draft report said that an annual contribution of $1.5 billion is needed to fund the benefits.
The cost of retiree health care and other non-pension benefits _ like vision, dental and life insurance _ is coming to light in Georgia and other states because of new standards from the federal Government Accounting Standards Board. They require that states provide a look at future costs of retiree benefits. The rules do not require states to come up with the money all at once. Instead, they're designed to provide greater transparency to the mounting costs of benefits for public employees. Those benefits seem certain to grow even more as baby boomers retire.
There are currently 28,293 retirees receiving benefits through the state, according to the state Department of Community Health. Meanwhile, there are about 228,000 active state employees.
Parry Young, a credit analyst at Standard and Poor's, called the non-pension benefits "a runaway train."
"This may be the fastest growing component of any government's budget and states may discover that these benefits are not at a level that's sustainable," Young said.
Young said that Georgia is in relatively good shape because the state's pension plan is on solid fiscal footing. Some other states are facing pension shortfalls as well.
Still, the failure of states to show that they have a plan in place to pay for non-pension health benefits could hurt their bond ratings, which would impact the rate at which they borrow money. Georgia currently enjoys a AAA rating from Standard and Poor's, one of only nine states to earn the highest rating.
McLagan said that Perdue has assembled a group of experts to study the potential budget impact and the best ways to comply with the new rules.
Placing aside $1.5 billion annually for a fund to pay for the benefits could make Wall Street happy. But that money won't be easy to come by. Revenues have shown recent signs of slowing in Georgia, and state lawmakers in Perdue's own Republican party are clamoring to enact more tax cuts.
Cutting benefits for retirees in Georgia could also be politically tricky for Perdue, who has said he wants to make the state more attractive for senior citizens flocking to neighboring Florida. During this year's re-election campaign, the governor pledged to eliminate the state income tax on retirement income.
Key state lawmakers involved in the budget process said they don't expect retiree benefits to be slashed.
"I don't think that will happen," said state Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
That's not easing the worry of state employees. The issue has become a hot topic in e-mails fired back and forth between teachers.
"We don't want the state to balance their books on the backs of educators, retired or current," said Tim Callahan, of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
An Oct. 5, 2005, e-mail from Neal Childers of the state Department of Community Health, said that he had been instructed to prepare draft legislation authorizing the state to set different premiums for retirees than for current state employees.
Childers also went on to say in that e-mail that the state Office of Planning and Budget "is now considering elimination of benefits."
And Perdue appears to be actively involved in the process. A Nov. 30, 2005, e-mail from another health department employee, Carie Summers, said that Perdue asked in a budget hearing when the state would be getting an opinion from the Attorney General's Office on benefit changes for retirees.
The question remains as to what the state may legally do to change benefits for its retirees.
In November 2005, Tim Burgess, then-commissioner of the Department of Community Health, asked the Attorney General's Office for "advice regarding the nature and scope of the state's legal obligation to provide health benefits to retirees under Georgia law."
E-mails obtained by AP show that the draft analysis was completed in September but new DCH Commissioner Rhonda Medows withdrew the agency's request for the opinion.
It was not immediately clear why she did so or what the opinion said.
On The Net:
Gov. Sonny Perdue: http://www.gov.state.ga.us
Teachers Retirement System of Georgia: http://www.trsga.com
Employees Retirement System of Georgia: http://www.ersga.org
Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Amy Morton at 2:26 PM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
If someone spends their life teaching Georgia's children, the State ought to honor the commitments made to them regarding their retirement. Yet, with escalating healthcare costs, driven at least in part by the unwillingness of this administration to cross insurance or drug companies and in part by the sheer number of retirees, the Associated Press has discoverd throgh open records requests and is reporting that for more than a year, the Perdue administration has been exploring raising premiums or eliminating health insurance all together for teachers and other retired state employees. The Department of Community Health has even requested an opinion from the Attorney General's Office regarding "advice regarding the nature and scope of the state's legal obligation to provide health benefits to retirees under Georgia law." This is very bad news. Here are portions of the AP article, written by Shannon McCaffrey. I should be able to provide a link to the whole article tomorrow.
ATLANTA (AP) _ Georgia faces a mounting price tag that could reach $20 billion in the coming years to cover health benefits already promised to tens of thousands of retired teachers and other state employees.
The cost is so staggering that Gov. Sonny Perdue is considering hiking premiums or eliminating health care benefits altogether for state retirees, according to e-mails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request....
An Oct. 5, 2005, e-mail from Neal Childers of the state Department of Community Health, said that he had been instructed to prepare draft legislation authorizing the state to set different premiums for retirees than for current state employees.
Childers also went on to say in that e-mail that the state Office of Planning and Budget "is now considering elimination of benefits."
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Posted by Amy Morton at 10:34 PM
How do Georgia legislators take care of the business of the people of Georgia? If their names are Rogers, Graves, Loudermilk and Scott, they cozy up with the likes of D.A. King and travel to what Money magazine has called one of the top ten vacation destinations in America, Cochise County, Arizona for an "educational tour" regarding illegal immigration. "Tour" is the operative word in that sentence.
Did King's radical The American Resistance Foundation or his newly birthed Georgia-focused Dustin Inman Society finance this trip? I'm betting the answer is yes, and, if so, these legislators are in bed with a certified extremist. This is the same D.A. King who said, "The President is in violation of his oath of office because of his unapologetic failure to secure the borders and enforce immigration and employment laws. Clinton was impeached for far less." I'm wondering whether these four musketeers are ready to throw an impeachment party for Bush?
Seriously, is D.A. King going to be "in the room" as new state laws are drafted? Wouldn't shock me.
Posted by Amy Morton at 3:03 PM
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The Macon Bar Christmas Party is tonight, and all I have to say is that after this post by Attorney Erick Erickson about Attorney Brian Passante, this typically low-key event could get interesting...Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Amy Morton at 1:58 PM
Monday, December 04, 2006
Stranger things have happened, and will happen again. On a national level, some argue that Democrats did not so much win congress as Republicans lost it. Could this also happen in Georgia? You bet your life it could. While I don't think that it is quite that simple, if the Georgia GOP engages in the same sort of over-reaching and failure to excise corruption, then, maybe Bookman, writing for the AJC , is correct. Republicans may become their own worst enemies.
According to Bookman, the Republican plan to take control of the courts is exactly the type of issue that is likely to turn voters off. I would add to that the secrecy legislation that may or may not re-emerge this session. It will be interesting to watch the showdown between Cagle and Richardson as they fight over whether those measures (HB 218 and SB 5) will be introduced once again this session. Cagle has stopped just short of promising that he will not support this legislation. Notice I said, just short. Richardson apparently continues to think that this putting a cloak around the state's negotiations with private industry is a grand idea, even if said industry is going in your backyard.
The bottom line is that Georgia Democrats cannot sit around and hope that the Georgia GOP implodes. From voter communication to branding to candidate recruitment, we must instead fundamentally change the way we do business. By the way, for those of you who think that Democrats are forever dead in Georgia, I invite you to show me the credible source that predicted, in 2004, that Democrats would re-take both houses of Congress in the 2006 mid-term election.
Posted by Amy Morton at 1:20 PM
Sunday, December 03, 2006
GOP Pays $135K in New Hampshire Call Jamming Suit
State and national Republicans will pay $135,000 to settle a suit involving a scheme to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote calls on Election Day 2002.
"The mills of the gods grind slowly......"
Posted by Tina at 7:17 PM
We can learn a few things from the Republicans. This week, the Republican Governors Association chose Sonny Perdue as Chair, and Perdue immediately installed Nick Ayers, his 24-year-old campaign manager as the youngest executive director ever of the Association. The choice of Gov. Perdue, a Southerner who despite re-election carries substantial ethical baggage because of his questionable land deals, underscores that Republicans have no intention of correcting the course that has so marginalized their Party. They instead sent a signal that they will continue to embrace those with ethical clouds looming and that they are at best a regional party, a southern party, to be specific.
On a national level, the congressional Republicans took a similar approach, re-installing the old guard despite losing both houses of congress. They even gave Trent Lott his old job back despite the fact that he was earlier forced to resign following some "racially insensitive" remarks. (In 2002, at the 100th birthday party for Sen. Thurmond, Lott said of Thurmond's 1948 campaign: "I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.") Click here for the whole story on Lott's issues with such stands.
In a way, this is good news for Democrats. On a national level, for the first time is a decade or more, Republicans are behind the curve. They are now where voters were, not where they want to go. The challenge for Democrats, if we are to stay in power, is to have the vision to see where voters need to go and then lead them there.
In Georgia, the shoe is on the other foot, and the inability of the national Republican machine to turn itself around is only good news if we take notes and refuse to do what they have done. Instead, we must do a no excuses analysis of the recent election and correct course. Democrats can win in Georgia. Democrats did win in Georgia (Baker and Thurmond, for example), but not if we continue on the same course with essentially the same leadership. I am not suggesting that we jettison valuable institutional knowledge, but I am suggesting that in the upcoming elections for Party leadership and as we field candidates and hone message for the upcoming elections, we need to send a signal that we heard the voters. I hope that we will have the courage and vision to lead as opposed to simply going where the opinion polls take us.
Posted by Amy Morton at 1:02 PM
Saturday, December 02, 2006
After Christmas every year, among the trees at the chipper, it seems that there are always one or two tossed with the ornaments intact. That's completely foreign to me. I grew up in a home where Christmas ornaments had meaning, and such is the case with the ones I hung today. My mother and father both grew up in the teeth of the Great Depression. Needless to say, 'lavish' is not a word that would have described their childhood Christmases, and store-bought ornaments were seldom available. My mother told stories of corn husk dolls and socks stuffed with some fruit and nuts and maybe a little candy. I don't remember my father ever talking about a Christmas present he received as a child. So, when I was growing up, while Christmas was still simple, it was a very big deal. The "treat bags", (brown paper sacks filled with nuts, an apple, an orange, orange slice candy and chocolate drops and handed out by the deacons on the Sunday before Christmas only after the service was over) had their roots in a time when families had little, and the "treat" was about all there was to Christmas. If of course, "all" was measured by gifts. After the service, the deacons left to deliver treat bags to shut-ins. And I noticed that.
My two sisters and I each got Christmas ornaments in our stockings every year, and we would carefully write our names, "Ava", "Susie", or "Amy", on tiny pieces of paper, cover them with scotch tape and place them on the back of the ornaments that were then wrapped carefully in tissue and stored away until the next year. This was my mother's idea. She thought that it would keep down the arguments. It worked-sometimes. Those ornaments went with us when we established our own homes and found their way onto my tree tonight, as they always do. While some evoke memories of specific Christmases, they all create a sense of continuity and connectedness that helps make the holiday special.
After we were all grown, and took the Christmas ornaments with us, my mother had to solve the problem of decorating her own tree. She chose snowflakes, handmade by an older friend from church, made with a technique called tatting-intricate crochet-like stitching that was tedious and, in the end, beautiful. Her tree was covered in those snowflakes and mirrored balls, and it was beautiful! After she died in 2002, my sisters and I eventually split up those snowflakes, and about fifty ended up on my tree tonight. Those snowflakes remind me of that my mother valued the careful handwork of a friend far more than any fancy store-bought ornament. They also remind me of snows in those North Carolina mountains!
Another tree in our home (yes, there are too many ornaments for one tree, and they all have meaning and cannot stay in the box, and, yes, this does drive my husband nuts) is covered with the ornaments from my husband's childhood (the handmade wooden ornaments he made with his Aunt Berta) and with the ornaments we have given our own children as they grew up. Even my grown boys fuss about which Star Wars ornament belongs to whom. They did not heed my advice about the names on little pieces of paper, secured by tape.
Every year, these ornaments, like bookmarks, wait to tell a story and each reminds me, every year of my history, our history, and how we all got to be who we are. They remind me of the values my parents taught me: work hard, tell the truth, take care of each other, hold your head up and always remember where you came from.
Posted by Amy Morton at 10:31 PM
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We put up our Christmas tree today, and I wanted to share it with you. (Yes, there are things in life more important than politics, but if you look closely, you will see a copy of Elizabeth Edwards' book "Saving Graces" in the basket behind the tree.) Wishing you the happiest of holidays! Daryl, Amy, Matthew and Tyler
Posted by Amy Morton at 10:15 PM
Friday, December 01, 2006
It is now the Republican Party that is in danger of marginalization. From The Economist:
A NATIONAL PARTY NO MORE?
Nov 30th 2006
The Republicans are in danger of being confined to the South
THREE years ago Zell Miller, then a Democratic senator for Georgia,
published an anguished book entitled "A National Party No More: The
Conscience of a Conservative Democrat". Today, though, the people who
are in that very danger are the Republicans rather than the Democrats.....
Posted by Amy Morton at 8:46 AM
Last year our General Assembly passed legislation to make red clay the "official Georgia dirt."
While I appreciate the whimsy involved in this effort, I would surely prefer that they devote themselves to more serious issues, such as repairing and adequately funding our broken public mental health system. I know for a fact that the ground-level people who work in the MHDDAD system are dedicated and honest human beings, but they are hampered in doing their job by underfunding, a truly byzantine system of financing and administration, and general lack of compassion on the part of the Georgia house and senate. I can't think of much they did in 2005-2006 that benefited the average Georgian despite political ads designed to give everyone a terminal case of the warm fuzzies. Please see my website http://dorotheaslist.blogspot.com/ to learn more about what you can to to stop the underfunding of mental health services in Georgia, the revolving doors of our state psychiatric hospitals, and the increasing criminalization of the mentally ill.
Posted by Tina at 12:55 AM