APN Chat with David Poythress, Candidate for Governor

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(APN) ATLANTA — In the first of APN’s 2010 statewide election candidate interviews, we sat down with David Poythress, a Democratic candidate for Governor. APN plans to interview the other Democratic candidates in the coming weeks.

The campaigns of former Governor Roy Barnes and Minority Leader Dubose Porter, also running for Governor, have agreed to participate in interviews, to be scheduled shortly. The campaign of Attorney General Thurbert Baker so far has not responded to press inquiries. APN will also be contacting the campaign of Mayor Carl Camon of Ray City, Georgia.

Poythress previously served as Assistant Attorney General, Deputy State Revenue Commissioner, and Secretary of State of Georgia. He previously ran for governor in 1998.

Poythress also served in the US Air Force and served as commander of the Georgia Army and Air National Guard under Governors Barnes and Perdue.

APN will ask the same ten questions of each candidate, to empower our readers to compare each of the candidates across a series of important, substantive public policy issues.

HOW WILL YOU BALANCE THE BUDGET? DO YOU SUPPORT CUTS OR INCREASED REVENUE?

We’ve about cut as much as we can cut. Cuts to educations have been draconian and cannot continue.

Increased revenue does not necessarily mean new taxes. First, we’re failing to collect hundreds of millions owed to the State. Former Commissioner of Revenue Graham said the failure is as much as five hundred million dollars in sales taxes. We don’t have an effective tax collection system in this State.

With the income tax, millions of dollars in out-of state corporations are going uncollected.

[What about the proposal for sales taxes to be collected at the local level?]

It’s not a good idea. It has superficial appeal. It didn’t work in Alabama; they’re in litigation. Tax collection is labor intensive and capital intensive. And what about a company that operates in multiple counties? If the State were doing a good job, there would be no enthusiasm for this.

First, I’m going to reorganize the Department of Revenue. Second, I’m going to look at a complete reevaluation of the tax system. We’ll always have sales tax and income tax. But there’s a whole other array of taxes–tobacco, alcohol, motor fuel tax, insurance premium tax, and state property tax–we need to reevaluate the whole system in light of 21st Century economic reality.

The General Assembly is looking at raising the cigarette tax by one dollar. This should be done in the context of a broader review. The hospital bed tax is a bad idea.

Exemptions have crept into the sales tax over the years. Originally, the sales tax in Georgia was supposed to have a low rate, a broad base, and few exemptions. For example, 17 exemptions passed last year cost 99 million dollars, the same amount ‘saved’ by the teacher furloughs.

[Are you concerned about sales taxes being too high? As APN reported, City of Atlanta has eight cents in sales taxes; this may go up to nine or even ten cents given proposals on the table.]

Yes, because there’s a certain point at which sales tax does affect economic growth.

Republicans, their whole mindset is cut taxes, cut spending.

Before we start changing out the [tax] system, we need to make sure the system we have is running right.

Everything needs to be on the table.

WHAT WILL YOU DO ABOUT MARTA AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION THROUGHOUT GEORGIA?

We clearly must go to more public transportation.

Metro Atlanta has reached a population density every big urban center in the world reaches where we can no longer look to the private automobile as the principle mode of transportation. I’m talking about London, Paris, Beijing.

Initially more should be invested in bus transportation. Then we must make a strategic decision for passenger rail. We should use the existing MARTA infrastructure as the base.

MARTA has complex governance and funding issues. The governance base of MARTA should be expanded to include Metro Atlanta. [Campaign manager Wendy Davis said Poythress believes its funding base should also be multi-county.]

[Do you support lifting the 50/50 capital/operational budget restriction on MARTA?]

Yes.

[Do you support either of the one penny sales tax proposals?]

If Georgia has not done something by the time I’m governor, I would sign practically anything for transportation whether regional or statewide.

My personal opinion is the Special Transportation District approach is way too complicated. It’s in political trouble.

If [the sales tax vote] is statewide it would be tougher but simpler.

[Tougher but simpler?]

Tougher to pass but simpler to administer.

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON COAL POWER AND NUCLEAR POWER?

Nuclear is less environmentally burdensome [than coal], but both have huge environmental implications.

Nuclear power seems to be where the country is heading. It seems to be the way we’re going with Plant Vogtle.

New construction should be nuclear power-based more than coal-based, mostly based on the carbon emission of coal.

[Editor’s note: Atlanta Progressive News has previously reported on numerous problems with nuclear power, including apparent correlation with increased cancer and disease rates in nearby areas, as well as water usage and river drawdown.]

WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON RENEWABLE ENERGY?

Georgia is key, it has significant potential for alternative energy sources. Both solar and bio-mass fuel.

Solar is the evolving technology around the world. Georgia gets a lot of sunlight, certainly as much as Germany.

Bio-mass includes waste products from trees [when used for wood or paper] such as limbs, bark, wood chips. There are already industries coming into Georgia for wood pellets used for fuel in Europe.

Georgia Power is experimenting with a wood-burning electric plant, Plant Mitchell. It still has a carbon footprint, but it’s not coal.

DO YOU SUPPORT A VOTER VERIFIED PAPER AUDIT TRAIL IN ELECTRONIC VOTING?

I was Secretary of State from 1979 to 1983. I was the person who initiated election night reporting. Before I was Secretary, it would come in five days later, in South Georgia you’d have pine trees and dead people vote.

I’m not per se opposed to electronic voting. The issue is public confidence. We have to do whatever it takes to assure confidence. It may mean a paper trail or audit process that’s foolproof.

There’s a great deal of apprehension with the public.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN FOR IMPROVING EDUCATION IN GEORGIA?

There are three schools of thought. One, abandon public education, universal vouchers. Overnight we would go to a third world country. What CEO is going to come to a state that’s turned its back on public education?

Two, Barnes has said teachers are the problem, they should be more tightly regimented, there should be prescriptive regulations on performance. It still has not worked.

[Three:] I am proposing to fundamentally transform the way education is delivered in the classroom.

First, I will commit the State of Georgia to a full commitment to educational technology in the classroom. In 1992, when we voted the lottery funding, the proposal was it could be used for three things- HOPE Scholarship, Pre-K, and technology. The third one we didn’t do.

We need to keep our promise. Technology is the world our kids are in, it’s the world they’re gonna live in the rest of their life.

Second, teachers are not the problem, they are the solution. We need to free teachers from overly presciptive regimentation. They should be held accountable, but that doesn’t mean regulate everything.

We need to restore education funding. Public education hasn’t been adequately funded in Georgia for decades.

Education is absolutely the last place we need to balance the budget.

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN FOR FUNDING TRAUMA CARE IN GEORGIA?

Gov. Perdue’s super-speeder fine is a built-in contradiction because if it works and it slows people down, then it doesn’t collect any money.

Trauma care has got to be a high priority. There’s an eighty million dollar price tag as told to me, to build it out, then there’s ongoing operational costs.

It’s not wise from a policy standpoint to tie streams of income to different objects [like the super-speeder fines for trauma care]. It takes the legislative process out of budget setting.

The governing body of the State should have the most flexibility in setting priorities. Trauma money should come from the General Fund of the State.

DO YOU SUPPORT MAKING CORPORATIONS MORE ACCOUNTABLE FOR TAX-GIVEAWAYS THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO CREATE JOBS? WHILE WE’RE ON JOBS, WHAT’S YOUR PLAN TO CREATE MORE JOBS?

I don’t say you shouldn’t do it [have corporate tax breaks]. But there should be accountability. Almost everything that’s a special interest tax exemption was sold to the Georgia Assembly as an economic development tool. It may or may not be.

I am proposing a package of initiatives, certain tax incentives to encourage green and alternative energy, the biological and life sciences.

In addition to tax incentives, we should do things in State government to encourage and facilitate development of small businesses. We did a one-stop shop [when I was in office] to get all your permits, licenses, forms, you were told where to go.

[Davis told APN Poythress believes the State’s economic development office should do more thorough research regarding proposed corporate tax breaks and the specific jobs they are supposed to create. Poythress also believes the breaks should sunset after a number of years so that the legislature could reevaluate whether they are working.]

[Poythress has also issued a pledge not to accept a salary until unemployment in Georgia comes under seven percent.]

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN TO ADDRESS GEORGIA’S WATER SHORTAGE AND DISPUTE WITH ALABAMA AND FLORIDA?

The State of Georgia has got to get much more focused and serious about water conservation. That includes low-flow plumbing devices, fixing leaks in public water systems, limitations on sprinkling every day, incentives for drought resistant landscape. This will save water up to twenty percent.

And it will give us a moral basis for which to negotiate with Florida and Alabama. We need to begin the process of increasing the water storage capacity, which will be very long-term and expensive.

And we need to negotiate with Florida and Alabama regarding the use of water in the Chattahoochee Flynt Apalachicola basin. We need to come to some sort of resolution. All the negotiations so far have been in secret, so a lot is unknowable.

WOULD YOU SUPPORT THE PROPOSAL BY ECONOMIST ELLEN BROWN TO STATE A STATE-RUN BANK OF GEORGIA SO THE STATE COULD LEND MONEY TO FARMERS AND SMALL BUSINESSES? NORTH DAKOTA HAS HAD A BANK FOR YEARS AND IS ONE OF THE ONLY STATES TO OPERATE IN THE BLACK TODAY.

North Dakota is a very small population that’s historically based on. I don’t see a state-owned bank in the future of Georgia.

To turn the economy around, there needs to be a liberalization on an interim basis of the capital requirements imposed on banks. Credit is locked up. That needs to be done at the federal level.

[Poythress explained that when the value of housing went down, many banks had outstanding mortgage loans worth more than the houses themselves were worth. Therefore, banks had to set aside additional collateral because the value of the original collateral, the houses, had dropped. Poythress said this has contributed to the inability of commercial banks to lend.]

(END/2010)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Revised syndication policy:

Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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