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Barnes still weighing 2010 campaign
Local Rotarians hear from former governor
Former Gov. Roy Barnes speaks to the Rotary Club of Lanier Forsyth on Tuesday. - photo by Harris Blackwood

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes said Tuesday he is continuing to ponder a run for the office he lost in 2002.

“I’m very satisfied with what I’m doing, but I don’t like what’s going on in state government,” Barnes said following a speech to the Lanier-Forsyth Rotary Club at Northside Hospital-Forsyth.

Barnes said he was getting a lot of encouragement to run, especially from the business community. He said he would make a decision by June.

In a nonpolitical speech to the civic club in Cumming, Barnes took aim at the current financial crisis in the U.S., saying Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame for much of the current situation.

“The agenda is controlled by lobbyists,” Barnes said. “It’s the personal politics of greed at its worst and we’re paying for it.”

Barnes said politicians at every level are too focused on being re-elected.

“For years, we had this whole idea that the common good overcame any individual interest and I’m afraid that has slipped away from us,” he said.

On the federal level, Barnes said the 1998 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 contributed to much of the current banking problems.

“We said banks could get into the investment banking business and investment firms could get into the banking business, allowing them to cross pollinate,” he said.

“We have allowed all of those investment banks to convert to commercial banks where they are insured by the United States government and that’s a recipe for disaster.”

Barnes said while governor he convinced the legislature to pass a restrictive law on predatory lending. He said the General Assembly repealed the legislation after he left office in 2003.

“After I got beat, they repealed it," he said. "The bankers went to Democrats and Republicans and it was repealed within two weeks after I had left. I patterned it after a bill they still have in North Carolina. The foreclosure rate there is one-half of what it is in Georgia.”

In a question and answer session, Barnes was asked for his thoughts on state and federal taxes.

He said the state has granted too many niche exemptions for sales taxes that cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

“When I first went to the General Assembly, the only exemptions were for wholesale purchases, agriculture and to buy the holy Bible,” Barnes said.

Barnes, who lost to Gov. Sonny Perdue in a 2002 upset, would join Democrats David Poythress and Attorney General Thurbert Baker in the gubernatorial race.

Current Republican candidates include Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, state Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton and Ray McBerry of McDonough.