State lawmakers will be on an “aggressive schedule” this upcoming session, continuing to push policies that promote business and the creation of jobs in Georgia, state House Speaker David Ralston told local leaders Tuesday.
The Blue Ridge, Ga., Republican was the keynote speaker at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s pre-legislative breakfast event at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
Ralston said he had three priorities for this legislative session: budget, budget and budget.
He drew a sharp contrast between how lawmaking gets done in the state Capitol and the gridlock in Washington, D.C.
He said Congress has accomplished so little because members of the two parties no longer interact, except as adversaries.
“They don’t solve problems and the reason they don’t is they don’t talk to each other,” Ralston said. “We talk to each other and have a dialogue.”
He said Democrats and Republicans in Georgia have been able to put some of their political differences aside to take care of the state’s business.
“We do something in 40 days that they haven’t done in years up there,” Ralston said. “That’s called a balanced budget.”
Ralston said having a government that works has allowed state lawmakers and Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration to pursue a pro-business agenda, even in difficult economic times.
Eliminating the energy sales tax on manufacturers, doing away with the so-called “marriage penalty” for married couples who pay state income taxes and making changes to the state ad valorem tax system on vehicles are all initiatives that make Georgia more business-friendly.
Ralston said that since January 2011, Georgia has added 175,000 jobs in the private sector, while cutting 9,000 government positions. He said current state spending levels were comparable to what was being spent in 1994.
“We have done a pretty good job of being good stewards of your money,” he said. “We don’t spend what we don’t have. We don’t mortgage our children’s future. We cut spending.”
Ralston cited the impending opening of Pinewood Studios in Fayette County as an example of the kind of business growth Georgia is attracting. He said the Peach State ranks second in the U.S. film industry behind California.
He said attracting more entertainment-industry dollars, such as music recording, will lead to more jobs and growth for the state.
Ralston pointed to the recent news that Site Selection magazine had ranked Georgia the state with the best climate for business in 2013 as evidence the policy changes were working.
“I think that is a really big deal and I’m proud of it,” he said.