Water and taxes likely will be the top items of discussion during the 2008 state legislative session, which begins Monday.
"I think water will be a very big issue," said Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem. "We'll have to make a decision about a statewide water plan."
Though much of Georgia suffered during a drought last year, Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said this area didn't feel the full effect.
"We were very fortunate to be in a position of having so much frontage on Clarks Hill reservoir and the Savannah River," he said. "It's hard to say what could happen that would adversely affect us there."
Earlier discussions of tapping into the Savannah River to send water to Atlanta likely won't play a prominent role in developing a water plan, Fleming said.
"I think there is a consensus building that the answer to our water issues is not that we don't get enough rain. We do," he said. "We get an average of 50 trillion gallons of rainfall in the state of Georgia. We only utilize 1.5 trillion of those gallons. We get enough rain. We just don't hold back enough of it."
The answer, Fleming says, is to build more reservoirs.
"We'll consider a plan to encourage the state and local governments to build more reservoirs, so the next time we have a drought we won't be in such a dire position," he said.
Much discussion in the Legislature will revolve around House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, and his plan to replace property taxes with an expanded sales tax on goods and services.
"I think taxes will create a significant discussion -- the idea of whether or not we should begin to eliminate property taxes in the state of Georgia," Fleming said.
Many have criticized the plan. In particular, Cross said, he doesn't feel state lawmakers should determine funding for local governments.
"We're not in favor of sending more money to Atlanta and letting it come back as they see fit," he said. "It's kind of like telling the state Legislature to send all of their money to Washington and let them send back whatever they think we need.
"I don't think that would go over too good."
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