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Shipp: Leaders fiddle as Georgia burns

POSTED: September 10, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Only in Georgia ...

State School Superintendent Kathy Cox flies to Hollywood to appear on the TV game show, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (Answer: probably not.) Meanwhile, her predecessor, Linda Schrenko, cools her heels in a federal prison for stealing a bundle from -- where else? -- the state education department.

Gov. Sonny Perdue finally gets his helicopter pilot's license. Now he can fly daily over the ground-bound peasantry trudging its way to work in lowly cars. He also zips off to China again. Wonder why he keeps going to China. Is there something we don't know?

State Sen. Mitch Seabaugh convenes a House panel to consider expanding the freedom to pack guns in Georgia. An "expert" witness testifies that the law ought to make it OK for adults to carry guns into schools, churches and other public places, even if they have criminal drug records. Georgia law already makes it legal for civilians to carry concealed weapons into airports and many other public and private places.

The nightly news continues to sound like a report from a war front, as citizens of Atlanta mow each other down at an alarming rate. The legislature apparently wants to increase the rate of gunfire.

Why is the national news media wasting time on the Democratic National Convention in Denver? They ought to be in Georgia. This is where the action is. The Denver conclave is so predictable. Some say it ought to be called "Prelude to a Butt-Kicking."

And Georgia's present government ought to be renamed "Aftermath of an Unnatural Disaster."

Look at this mess:

Almost overnight, the annual state budget has risen from $15 billion to $21 billion.

To help forestall a financial collapse, Perdue takes away the homeowners' tax credit and says the Barnes crowd never should have passed such a thing. Hey, former Gov. Roy E. Barnes hasn't been around for nearly seven long years. Don't blame him for your problems. He's too busy building a castle with a moat between Lost Mountain and Marietta.

To make certain Georgia doesn't lose its national standing as having the worst public schools in the nation, Perdue and the legislature are whacking money for public schools again. And higher education is being chopped to the bone. Courses have been cut and professors sent packing while student fees are skyrocketing.

Folks, thanks to Gov. Carl Sanders back in the 1960s and several of his successors, our colleges are about the best thing Georgia has going for it. So why is the state skimping on them, even as it drains millions from the budget to pay for the governor's Go Fish program?

Nearly 100 local school districts have raised local taxes to takes to try to compensate for millions ripped away by the state.

Georgia's mental health system has been allowed to virtually collapse to the extent that, after 40 years, Georgia's mental hospitals have regained the awful epithet "the snake pits."

Oh, yes, then there is the drought. The Gold Dome folks are dealing with that ongoing problem by stripping millions previously budgeted for new and improved reservoirs.

Of course, slipping and sliding revenues are forcing the state to cut spending somewhere, yet the budget axe is falling with extra force on education, the one state service that can rescue us from the bleak future ahead caused by the utter idiocy in the statehouse.

The whole bunch ought to go to Hollywood to appear on the coming production of "Are We Dumber Than Dirt?" What about it, audience? The answer has to be yes.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30160; Web site.



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