By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
Another week has passed in the Senate. This week, I fell into more of the watchdog role as we reviewed House bills to ensure nothing was going to slip through the cracks. I had a hand in crafting amendments to some to make sure we are protecting consumers and tax payers.
In one situation, I amended a 9-1-1 fee bill to re-add a cap on cost recovery fees that had been struck in committee. In another, I made an amendment in committee to make sure no kickback could be paid to any government entity or employee concerning a new e-filing system on court filings. These are simple consumer and tax payer protections that almost everyone agrees we need, but in the thick of legislating, often get forgotten. I was proud to be the one to catch them and made sure they were there.
Among the 17 bills that were on the Senate floor this week, the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) General Budget was by far the most important one that passed. The budget allots approximately $24.9 billion in several areas that will directly affect us. This contains over $4 million for improvements to the Georgia State Prison in Tattnall County and $3 million for rehabilitation projects to the Heart of Georgia rail way, including a portion that stretches from Nunez to Vidalia. Funds are also being allocated to fund salary increases for state employees and for our law enforcement officers and teachers, bus drivers, school nurses and DFACS workers, with teacher increases being this time made to the pay scale.
Some things that I’ll keep an eye out for in the coming weeks include legislation relating to the disposal of coal ash and the rural downtown development bill. This bill will help the downtown revitalization process, mirroring what we have seen happen in downtown Jesup. In addition to these two bills, I’m also excited for the opportunity to support a bill coming forward that lowers the state income tax. The current state income tax rate sits at six percent at the highest rate of income and the new proposal would lower it to a 5.4 percent flat income tax for all. Strangely, this bill is receiving opposition, mainly from those who want to receive more government funds, but y’all sent me to Atlanta on a campaign to support smaller, conservative government and reducing taxes goes along with that mission.
Thank you again for supporting me while I’m in Atlanta. I’m more anxious than ever to get back home but there is still work to be done and bills to be discussed. If you have any concerns or questions in these last few days, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or my office. As always, it is an honor to serve you at the Capitol.