EDITORIAL: Georgia Statewide Update

By State Representative Dave Belton (R-Buckhead)

(760 words)

 I periodically like to update you on where we are as a state. While our nation’s federal politics are largely a mess, Georgia is in a very good place compared to our sister states.

For the fourth year in a row, Georgia was named the No. 1 state for business, and Atlanta was just ranked the “Best City in the Nation to Start a Business.” Georgia recently added 600,000 jobs, nearly doubling the nation in overall job growth and averaging about 100,000 new jobs every year. Georgia has moved from 10th to the eighth largest population in the U.S., meaning we will probably gain another congressional seat in 2020. Georgia’s AAA bond rating for 20 years in a row is second best in the nation, and we were one of only five states to keep a AAA status during the recession.

Your state government got 20 percent smaller during the past few years. The State of Georgia has very few state workers – 39th lowest in the nation. We are the second lowest in the nation in per capita spending, third lowest in state debt and fourth lowest in collections per capita. Both Florida and Texas state budgets are four times larger than Georgia’s, but these states only have two times more people than Georgia.

Unlike many of our sister states – nine are facing shortfalls and 13 are barely treading water – Georgia’s revenue is actually growing (4.5 percent this year alone). Fifteen states cannot balance their budgets this year, including many with massive deficits like Illinois at $3 billion, California at $2.4 billion, Oregon at $1.8 billion, Massachusetts at $1 billion and Wisconsin at $1 billion. Many other states, including Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are shutting down their governments because they are, as a business reporter recently observed, “suffering chronic mismanagement.” Georgia, on the other hand, balances its budget every year and has recently saved a rainy day fund of almost $2.4 billion.

Georgia’s lottery is one of the best in the nation, providing $18 billion in education funding so far. Our state lottery is ranked second in total per capita sales, 10th lowest in administration fees and 10th lowest in advertising costs of any state-run lottery. In addition, it provides over $1 billion annually to fund education across our state. Instead of promising to spend the money on education and then spending it on something else, which is what almost every other state does, Georgia’s lottery spends its money exclusively on the HOPE scholarship and pre-K education.

Agriculture is still Georgia’s biggest industry with a $75 billion annual impact. Georgia is the No. 1 state in the nation for blueberries, poultry, peanuts, rye and onions, No. 2 in cotton, cucumbers and watermelon and No. 3 in bell peppers, peaches and corn. It is simply amazing, but even though farmers only account for 1 percent of our population, their crops support one in every seven jobs. Tourism in Georgia grew 3 percent this year to reach $60 billion a year, and manufacturing rose 12 percent to $55 billion. The military is next at $20 billion a year, which is one of the reasons why I am working so hard to protect Georgia’s military bases. The fastest growing sector is our burgeoning film industry at $10 billion. Georgia is now the No. 1 location in the world to make movies: 17 of the last 20 top grossing films were made within our state. As the Hollywood of the South, Covington and the new Three Rings Studios are especially well-placed to thrive.

Georgia is spending more money on roads than any other state. This is vital as Atlanta’s biggest strength is its role as a hub for transportation. Savannah has the fourth busiest port in the U.S., Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world and Metro Atlanta has the eighth largest economy in the U.S. Atlanta recently grew 26 percent to 5.6 million people because of its ample jobs, low cost of living and appeal to millennials. Despite this growth, Atlanta’s air is cleaner than it was in 2000, and Atlanta’s residents are using 10 percent less water. Atlanta hosts the fourth most conferences in the U.S., and Georgia’s energy sources are getting a lot cleaner.  Natural gas has eclipsed coal as our No. 1 energy source (coal fell from 50 percent to 33 percent), and renewables have risen from nine to 13 percent.

Despite some flaws, Georgians are blessed to be living in the very best state in the very best nation the world has ever known.

Representative Dave Belton represents the citizens of District 112, which includes all of Morgan County and the eastern side of Newton County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2014, and currently serves as the Chairman of the Military Affairs working group. He is also a member of the Economic Development & Tourism, Education, Energy, Utilities &Telecommunications, and Interstate Cooperation committees.

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Posted August 4th, 2017 in Dave Belton. Tagged: .