By Ashley Speagle
ATLANTA -- North Georgia lawmakers hope a jobs bill sponsored by a colleague will get another look this year from Gov. Sonny Perdue, who vetoed it last year after it passed the House and Senate.
With more than 10 percent of Georgians unemployed, state lawmakers say jobs are a top priority.
Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, said Friday that the House and Senate joint Economic Development Committee expects this week to hear economists predict small but steady revenue growth as the state begins climbing out of recession.
"I anticipate hearing that we'll be seeing a slow recovery," Rep. Dickson said. "I think that would tell us we've got to look at legislation that will try to generate jobs and make Georgia more attractive for businesses."
Rep. Martin Scott, R-Rossville, said he wants to push the Jobs Opportunity and Business Success bill sponsored last year by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, and attach it to something the governor would not veto. The bill would offer tax cuts and other fiscal incentives to create jobs.
Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, also said he'd like to see Rep. Graves' bill reconsidered.
Rep. Graves could not be reached for comment Friday.
Gov. Perdue's spokesman, Bert Brantley, said Rep. Graves' legislation last year "expanded and would have blown at least another $1 billion hole in the budget."
This year, he said, "the governor met with Rep. Graves to see if it makes sense this session and if the state can afford it."
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, created a new special committee on small business development and job creation and named Rep. Graves a member.
"I'm not sure what the relationship will be between the two committees (economic development and the special committee), but ... I'm sure they'll work very closely and seamlessly, not at odds," Rep. Dickson said.
State fiscal economist Dr. Kenneth Heaghney told lawmakers last week he expects increased consumer spending to spur slow but certain job growth before June 30.
Also last week, Gov. Perdue said the state needs to do something to help bring back jobs.
The sticking point is funding, he said during hearings on state transportation.
"If we have robust growth, we may be able to afford it out of reserves," Gov. Perdue said. "We have to consider the positive impact on future economic growth and if can we afford it."
However, any increased revenue the state sees also will need to be spread out over budget holes in fiscal 2011 to cover the loss of federal and other one-time funds.
The Governor's Office of Workforce Development announced one initiative Friday to improve Georgia's work force and possibly to decrease unemployment.
Partnering with Microsoft, the state will offer 25,900 free courses and certification exams to Georgians on a first-come, first-served basis.
Ashley Speagle covers the Georgia legislature. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.