Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tight Budget Pushes Other Issues Aside

 State Senator Bill Hamrick

The Georgia State Senate is taking another crack at passing a transportation plan endorsed by Atlanta Business Groups.

The mood at the state capitol this year is somber. That's mainly because of the 2.2 billion dollar budget.

Almost non existant this session are the divisive issues like immigration or gun control. That's because lawmakers are literally too busy trying to deal with it. Georgia Hooks served in the State legislature for 29 years. This year he says is different from all others.

"It's a strange situation," he says. " I don't think I've seen anything quite like this, but we'll make the best of it."

Hooks is trying to stay optimistic in light of the massisve shortfall in the current budget. He says with cuts everywhere lawmakers rarely talk about anything else.

"When you look at the amount of red ink we have that's cutting through education, health care, public safety it has all the state lawmakers pre-occupied with that."

Gone seem to be the hot topics of years past. Remember gun control and Speaker Richardson's push to eliminate property taxes last year? Or how about immigration, School Vouchers, Sunday Alcohol Sales and more gun legislation? Such social topics are pushed to the sidelines this year says State Senator Bill Hamrick, a Republican from Carrollton. He sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"It really is mentally draining when you work on this in the legislature all day and then you go home and talk to people in the grocery store who have been laid off and ask you for help in writing a letter to someone they've applied to," he says.

Hamrick says lawmakers have no appetite this year to get into issues that seem a little less urgent than people's livelihood. And those issues he says include Immigration and gun control.

Some lawmakers are banking on money from Washington to help them through this budget year and take the pressure off. Other are working on Governor Perdue's recommended budget, which so far includes no new federal funds.

-By Susanna Capelouto

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