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Shipp: Blame leadership for budget mess
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Georgia has one of the largest and most violent prison populations in the country, yet the state, in its haste to try to balance an insanely optimistic budget in a recession, has cut prison guards' pay to just four days a week. Some prison guards already are among the lowest-compensated state employees.

In at least one unit of the state university system, Kennesaw State, officials announced that students would be required to pay an additional $400 a semester for meal tickets for a dining hall that has not even been built.

When the student body threatened to break out pitchforks and torches, the administration backed off.

However, the university officials still can't figure out a better way to finance a new dining room because the university Regents have cut the budget for higher education (and apparently eating, too) to the bone.

These are just two minor examples of what your state government is doing within our borders. It is not "Drill, baby, drill" in our non-oil producing state; it's "Cut, baby, cut."

If you buy into the optimistic scenario offered by the governor's office, Georgia faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

If you believe nonpartisan budget analysts like Alan Essig, Georgia will be lucky to escape a $2 billion deficit or, put another way, a shortfall amounting to 10 percent of the state budget.

To paraphrase Sarah Palin, we've got a doggone mess on our hands.

This is not the first time that an exiting governor left his successor a financial knot to untangle.

Back in the 1970s, Gov. George Busbee was forced to tighten the budget because Gov. Jimmy Carter left a few headaches behind. In the 1990s, Gov. Zell Miller had to sweep up behind Gov. Joe Frank Harris.

Gov. Sonny Perdue's folks blame the flood of red ink on former Gov. Roy Barnes. That doesn't quite fly. Barnes exited the Capitol six years ago and left Sonny a hefty rainy-day surplus in case the economy turned sour. Six years later, it did, and the surplus has been drained to next to nothing.

In addition, Perdue has two more years, and at least two more legislative sessions, to serve.

He already has chopped $1.5 billion out of public school budgets, forcing at least 100 school districts to raise taxes to maintain even minimum standards of education.

Traffic congestion is so bad in parts of our state that Sonny's advisers are toying with the idea of privatizing the highways. Puleeeze don't even think about anything like that.

Every time our government starts messing with privatizing and deregulating services, runaway greed is followed by unbridled chaos. Like it or not, it seems that the only thing worse than government is no government. See natural gas, airlines and banks for starters.

Perdue also continues to outsource state jobs. The hot-tar-and-feathers crowd ought to check that out. We suffer enough joblessness without hiring folks in India and the Philippines to fix our computers, check our taxes and read our MRIs.

Retired teachers are taking it on the chin from Perdue for lobbying against his bill to allow venture capitalists and other speculators to invest in their retirement system. Hang in there, sisters and brothers, better days are bound to come, somewhere around January 2011 when a new regime moves into the Gold Dome.

Until then, keep your fingers crossed that the GOP-owned legislature doesn't try to impeach the Republican governor. Why, you ask?

To Perdue's everlasting credit, he sees House Speaker Glenn "Romeo" Richardson for what he is: a tyrant without an ounce of judgment who has intimidated his fellow lawmakers into letting him stay in office.

As a result, Richardson & Co. despise Perdue and are determined to trip him up, no matter what he tries. In bygone days, lawmakers worked closely with the governor, no matter whom, to solve budget problems so the state could continue to move forward.

You'll find no such spirit of cooperation in the House of Romeo, which makes one wonder why Democratic leaders are asking for a special session of the General Assembly. The donkeys must like to hear Richardson rant against Perdue. That would likely be the only tangible result of a special session.

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

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