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Catoosa County GOP platform

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The Catoosa County Republican Party has outlined its vision for the future: no benefits for county commissioners, no special tax incentives for businesses, no gay marriage and no government-funded education.

"We want to see responsible future Republicans stick to [those positions] well beyond our lifetime," said Jeff Holcomb, who was elected chair of the local party during a convention last month. "Government spending is out of control, everywhere. That's the main idea behind this: getting government spending out of the way."

Holcomb said he doesn't expect any of those concepts to come to fruition soon — some may not happen in his lifetime. But he hopes the ideas approved by about 45 Republicans during the convention will serve as a guiding light.

Other county officials — even Republicans — aren't interested.

"I didn't take this job to let some people like this tell me what I'm going to do and what I'm not going to do," said Commissioner Bobby Winters, who runs with the GOP. "If they don't like it, they can vote me out. I work hard for the people. I work hard. And I love to work for the people."

The party's platform, written by a committee, has no legal weight. It is merely a statement from its members, telling elected officials who want to run for office as Republicans what positions they should hold.

Holcomb said party members at last month's session argued that local government should not bend over backwards for potential new businesses. The county spends taxpayer money to prepare sites where companies can build. And when some new companies come around, like Costco Wholesale and Cabela's, the local government offers tax breaks as a recruiting tool.

He thinks local, state and federal government should all be smaller, meaning nobody pays too much tax. As it stands, the county government "picks winners and losers," the party platform reads.

Commissioner Jim Cutler said this is an unrealistic stance. "When a business is looking at Catoosa County, they're also looking at Whitfield and Hamilton County and Bradley County. The whole area. You have to offer some type of reason to do business in Catoosa County. Certainly, we watch that. We don't just go wild."

A portion of the county platform also focuses on public schools, though the Catoosa County Board of Education races are nonpartisan. Denise Burns, the local Republican party's Chambers precinct chair, said some conservatives hope to put parties back in those races.

The platform is steeped in Christianity, with a quote from Solomon: "Much study wearies the body."

"That is not to say that education is not important," the authors continued. "In fact, Jesus Himself learned."

The Republicans say the school board "shall not fear" rejecting federal funding. Also, the platform argues school funding should go through county commissioners, as is the case in Tennessee. In Georgia, boards of educations levy their own taxes.

The overarching goal, however, is this: "We believe that government control of education should be ended."

"I seriously doubt that Catoosa County would ever go to a nongovernment school system," said Burns. "That's not really their goal. That, to me, was an overarching ideological statement."

In a statement, Catoosa County Schools Superintendent Denia Reese said the system's $8 million in federal funding is vital, going toward free and reduced lunches for some students, as well as special education.

"Our community has communicated a high expectation for an excellent quality school system and school board members who are good stewards of their resources," Reese said. "The ability to elect school board members who listen to the community provides local control of the school system."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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