Neely Young: The Wing Nuts

Rep. David Ralston, the new Speaker of the House who replaced Glenn Richardson, is a breath of fresh air. “New wine drinks fine” as the saying goes. Richardson surrounded himself with people who despised local government. Some say Ralston must deal with these nuts that are still there! I will not call them nuts. I believe some of our legislators (not all) should be called, in hardware terms, “wing nuts.” Wing nuts are easier to loosen and are not as hard to unscrew as regular nuts.

There is a nest of wing nuts in the statehouse and governor’s office. They believe that mayors, city councils, county commissions and local school boards are too dumb to run local government. They believe the state is all knowing and all powerful, and most decisions should come from high up. Wing nuts are actually socialists.

My friend Neil Barfield wonders why most state politicians, who seem like perfectly normal people when they speak to constituents at homeowners’ meetings and other gatherings, arrive at the state capitol and immediately start to walk in lock-step with the good old boys. Somehow they all drink the same Kool-Aid and propose the strangest laws to try and regulate our lives – like one that would allow homeowners to plant drought-tolerant landscaping even if the practice is prohibited by the residents’ association. Apparently the “little people” in the homeowners group don’t know how to govern themselves. The state knows better, the wing nuts believe.

Gov. Sonny Perdue won his first election by siding with state teachers to beat a Democratic incumbent. Yet he and the wing nuts have allowed our schools to be gutted by almost $2 billion in cuts over the past seven years. Teachers are facing larger classes, furloughs, even layoffs. Some systems are teaching only four days a week. Many principals are fearful that their schools will fail to meet accreditation requirements. Conceivably, Georgia could have a slew of Clayton County-like school situations, and fall even further behind. Clayton was almost ruined by a liberal pro-union school board. Yes, wing nuts can be liberal as well as conservative.

The University of Georgia, our flagship institution, has had its budget cut by $50 million. City and county governments are facing the same severe budget problems, and laid-off workers can point their fingers at state government for some of their troubles.

Wing nuts cite former President Ronald Reagan as their hero; they believe in a no-tax, less-government – or no-government – policy. Yet Reagan was a pragmatist. He raised taxes to preserve Social Security and believed strongly in local government.

The wing nuts say, “Read my lips, no new taxes!” Yet last year the state took back $450 million in tax savings from Georgia residents when lawmakers eliminated the special property tax relief grants.

The wing nuts believe cities, counties and local school boards cannot properly manage their governments. They believe the state government should control tax monies. The net effect was that the state raised taxes by almost $450 million on the citizens of Georgia.

Gov. Perdue’s interference with and mismanagement of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has been a disaster. GDOT used to be an independent body. The audit, accounting and management changes and overall interference have almost shut down the department, while Georgia has lost millions of dollars in federal matching funds.

A truly glaring example of state government’s disrespect for the people of Georgia is Gov. Perdue’s proposal to give the state, through the governor’s office, the power to appoint the state school superintendent, insurance commissioner, agriculture commissioner and labor commissioner, positions that are now elected. Perdue said, “This proposal will result in better government for Georgians.” Trans-lation: He, along with other wing nuts, believes the people of Georgia aren’t smart enough to pick their own constitutional officers.

Georgia’s city and county governments and school systems employ almost 500,000 voting adults. It will be interesting to see how they vote in the next election. If they help return the wing nuts to the state legislature, there will be no local government at all. The state will have all the power.

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