2017 Archives

November 14--  State Representative Greg Morris of Vidalia reports "From the People's House."

2019 Budget/Teacher Retirement. A meeting last week with a senior member of Gov. Deal’s administration confirmed that the Teachers Retirement System will require a $351 million additional appropriation in the upcoming budget. That is in addition to the $1.5 billion the state already puts into the system.

When you consider our revenue is expected to grow around $800 to $900 million, filling this gap in TRS will eat up nearly half of it. TRS is the pension system relied on by over 400,000 teachers, university employees, and retirees. The government contribution rate to TRS will have more than doubled since 2012 when the new rate takes effect next year. TRS gets its funding through a combination of contributions from the state, local school districts, teachers, and investment income the $71 billion fund earns. The average retiree receives 37,000 dollars.

The Teachers Retirement System is an invaluable tool in attracting and keeping good teachers. There are no easy answers on how to meet the increasing TRS obligations within the parameters of a balanced budget. Higher investment returns would be a solution but retirees are understandably hesitant to have their money placed in more risky investments.

Legislative Pay Raise. A commission created to study the salaries of the Georgia’s elected officials has recommended some significant raises for the Legislature and the state’s constitutional officers. Currently, members of the House and Senate make $17,342.00 a year to serve in the Legislature. The commission recommends increasing that amount to $29,908 a year. That would be a 72% increase.

Constitutional officers (Secretary of State, Attorney General , School Superintendent, and Agricultural Commissioner) would get 19% raises. Although most people I talk to are surprised to learn that the current pay is less than 20,000 , 72% is a percentage of increase I think many would find offensive.

The situation that you don’t want is a full time Legislature. Trust me on that one. Having a citizen Legislature is what separates us from the mess in Washington. The idea of a citizen Legislature is to have small business owners, attorneys, pharmacists, educators, farmers, doctors, etc. meeting together for a limited time(40 Legislative days) to make decisions that govern the lives of their fellow citizens. Those decisions are better when they are made by Legislators who have to live and work under them like everyone else.

Still $17,342.00 is tough for many young Legislators starting families and careers. I talked to one new Legislator who told me his business was off 30% since he came to Atlanta and that he wasn’t sure he could come back for another term. He said he didn’t dream how much time he would be devoting to the job or the difficulty of trying to run his business while he was away in Atlanta. He is very talented and I would hate to lose him, but I would understand. I didn’t ask but his wife probably wants to kill him as well. Anyway, is $29,908.00 fair or too much? Let me know. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Opioid Epidemic. According to the GA. Dept. of Public Health, Georgia is 11th in the nation in opioid overdose deaths. The department says deaths related to drug overdoses is now almost equal to deaths from vehicle crashes. In fact, 55 of Georgia’s 159 counties exceeded the national drug overdose rates. President Trump was right when he called opioid abuse a national crisis and unfortunately Georgia seems to be on the front lines.

 

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