Sen. Freddie Powell-Sims: 2018 Legislature brings good things to Southwest Ga.

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The 2018 Legislative Session has finally ended. An abundance of bills and appropriation requests made for lively debate and deliberations. Some legislation was touted as “good legislation,” but in reality, possessed nefarious consequences for many Georgians. The people-oriented legislation dealt with taxes, healthcare, public education, transportation, veterans affairs, rural issues, agriculture, corrections, public safety, retirement legislation, along with much more. Many Georgians will realize an improved quality of life based on this year’s 2018 legislative session.
HB 684 is the FY19 General Budget totaling over $26 billion. This budget was built on approximately 2.44 percent State Fund growth and 3.26 percent DOR tax revenue growth over the revised FY18 Amended Revenue estimate. Lottery Proceeds totaled $1.201 billion; Motor Fuel Taxes $1.830 billion; and total Transportation Revenues at $2.034 billion.
Year after year, the major issue that absolutely convenes the legislature is the state budget. Constitutionally, the budget must be balanced, while continuing to address hundreds of state-appropriated needs.
Southwest Georgians especially benefitted from this year’s budget by receiving a much needed appropriation for Georgia Southwestern State University’s Center for Excellence, in the amount of $3.4 million in bonds. State Reps. Bill McGowan and Ed Rynders lobbied for this appropriation in the House, while Sen. Greg Kirk and I lobbied heavily in the Senate. Rep.  McGowan, a newcomer to the legislature, worked tirelessly to assist with the Georgia Southwestern State University funding. Georgia Southwestern State University’s small capital project was not included in the Governor’s budget nor the University Board of Regent’s budget, therefore making this an incredibly tough “ask.” We worked through a relatively nonpartisan focus, which was extremely beneficial to Southwest Georgia’s appropriation requests. Constituent services should always come before partisan politics.
Other projects, either directly or indirectly impacting the region were Georgia Southwestern Railroad $2.6 million in bonds; Heart of Georgia Railroad $7.3 million in bonds; Regional Educational Centers $13.9 million; State Charter Schools $4.1 million; Pupil Transportation $142.2 million; Adult Addictive Diseases $45.2 million; Dual Enrollment $78.8 million; Behavioral Health $6 million; Detention Centers $39.2 million; Governor’s Office of Student Achievement $21.9 million, just to name a few. Probably the most celebrated budgetary items were the fully funding of Quality Basic Education and HB918, the reduction of personal income taxes from 6 percent to 5.75 percent.
The legislative process is continuous; meaning, it does not end when the session is over. Quite the opposite. Planning, implementing and accountability of funding sources is a never-ending journey. An efficient, effective legislator takes the job seriously; not himself or herself. Behavior of the latter can signal the rapid demise of a legislator’s career.
Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle have been true champions of Southwest Georgia and its many rural challenges. As citizens of this great state, we salute their efforts in making South Georgia “whole” and relevant. It was an absolute pleasure working with these gentlemen on behalf of the constituents of Southwest Georgia.

State Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Sasser, represents District 12.