The Democratic challenger to state Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain, took aim at his opponent and the General Assembly for what he called a "liberal tax and spend philosophy."
Christopher Strickland, a Flowery Branch Democrat, made his comments during a candidate forum sponsored by the Hall County Farm Bureau. The format gave each candidate time for a five minute speech. Mills, who followed Strickland on the program, went on the defensive saying Strickland was wrong.
"When you factor in the budget’s inflation and the population growth, the budget that was passed last year was actually less than the budget that was passed in 1996," Mills said.
Strickland said the budget has gone up $6 billion in six years. He said that Hall County had faced an 8 percent property tax hike because of the shift of education costs from state to local government.
Mills countered that he and his legislative colleagues have brought home more construction money for the growing school system, increasing to $18.3 million in last year’s state budget.
Strickland said the loss of the grants to homeowners would cost state taxpayers $429 million that would have to be replaced locally. He called on the audience to call the capitol and demand a special session of the legislature before the General Election.
"You need to send a message to the governor now, right now, that we need a special session of the legislature," Strickland said.
The forum was also to feature the candidates for Congress. U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, was present and spoke briefly about the need for U.S. policy on offshore drilling. His opponent, Jeff Scott of LaFayette, was scheduled to attend but could not make it because of the weather.
Also at the meeting, the Hall County Farm Bureau elected new officers. Harry Allison was elected president; Drew Echols was elected vice president. New directors are Sam Chapman, Todd Chapman, Jimmy Echols, Nancy Jarrard and Larry Nix.