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September 14, 2006

Sonny is a Rich Dude

One thing I guess I don't understand is the obsession Republicans have over pointing out that Mark Taylor's father is wealthy.  So what!  Good for Mark.  But even if they thought this was some sort of wedge issue, I'd advise them to look in the mirror.  Sonny Perdue entered office in 2002 as a millionaire.  His net worth was around $4 million.  Since then, it has more than doubled to $8 million.  Of course, that's what we've deduced.  He reported it only as $6 million, but then we learned that he paid $2 million for a piece of land next to Disney world that he was claiming was only worth $200K.  Fat chance.

My point isn't that Sonny Perdue might actually be worth $20 million, for all we know he is.  The point is that both Mark and Sonny are well off individually.  Their families, like the families of many politicians on both sides of the aisle, do not worry about where their next paycheck is coming from or whether their children will get a good education.  The biggest difference between Mark and Sonny is not the difference between their families' net worth, it is the difference between what each has done since they've been in office.

Mark has dedicated his entire life to helping the less well off.  From sponsoring the HOPE scholarship, to fighting for Peach Kids and the two strikes out law, to his landmark HEROES legislation which supported Georgia Guardsmen at war and at home, to his DNA database which helps to solve crimes against women and makes sure that wrongly accused Georgians are out of jail and the person that actually commits the crime is serving the time.

Sonny, on the other hand, can't really point to a landmark piece of legislation that he introduced when he served in the legislature.  He rose to the top of the Senate, and then switched parties because of personal differences with his fellow Democrats.  Once he became a Republican, he challenged a Democratic governor who rubbed some people the wrong way because he was a little too bold.  He made the flag change the centerpiece of his campaign.

And when he got into office, the first thing he proposed was a property tax increase.  Under Barnes, Georgia's state government had been subsidizing local property taxes on a phased in schedule, and Sonny tried to eliminate the planned increases.  You see, when you own $4 milllion worth of land, an extra couple of hundred dollars of property tax relief doesn't mean much to you.  But it does to the average Georgian, and thankfully the Democrats in the legislature and a number of Republicans as well told Sonny that his plan was DOA.

And what has he done since?  Well, he's underfunded education.  Georgia has one of the worst educational systems in the nation, and it was previously one of the worst funded.  In the 1980's legislators instituted an act called the "Quality Basic Education" act that mandated that, at the very least, a certain dollar amount would be spent per student no matter where they lived and a portion of state money would pay part of that amount.  But Sonny cut the state's share.  Some counties and cities, nearly 100, raised local property taxes to make up the difference, so that they could keep offering electives, AP courses and the like.  But some just cut their budgets and increased tax sizes.  When enrollment statewide increased, Sonny touted the "extra billion" he was spending on education, but in truth he still managed to find $170 million in cuts to the QBE formula.  There were more students, and more overall money, but the per student average has gone down every year from the amount the state spent when Barnes was in office.

Children are often the most in need of protection in our society.  In the 1990's, Democrats passed landmark legislation that would guarantee a minimum amount of health care coverage for Georgia's neediest children.  These children didn't choose to be born into poverty, and Georgia had made a commitment to their future by creating the Peachcare program.  But Sonny proposed something almost unthinkable.  If their parents were even a day late on their payment to the program, he'd remove the child for 90 days.  Just think about that for a minute.  Fortunately, many doctors in the state would continue to honor the program and often work without compensation. 

So, Sonny, what gives.  You're rich, Mark's rich.  Seeing how little you've done for the average Georgian, it makes sense that you'd rather talk about Mark's dad then your own actions in office.

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Posted by Chris at September 14, 2006 11:15 AM


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