FORSYTH COUNTY — Just days before the start of 2015’s Georgia General Assembly, several members of Forsyth County’s state legislative delegation sat down for breakfast.
On Tuesday morning, the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Pre-Legislative Session Breakfast, which featured a panel discussion involving Republican state Reps. Mike Dudgeon, Geoff Duncan, Mark Hamilton and Kevin Tanner, as well as state Sen.-elect Michael Williams.
The panel touched on several issues facing Georgia and Forsyth County, including the state budget, education needs and transportation woes.
According to Hamilton, one of the biggest issues with transportation infrastructure is that revenue from two sources — taxes and gas — has dipped.
“Gasoline consumption for the state of Georgia fell about 3 percent, even with the growth that we’ve had.” Hamilton said. “What’s happened is you have a declining revenue source to maintain roads as our infrastructure needs have gone up.”
Compounded with less funding, Hamilton said the state is lowering the percentage of roads that will be repaired each year.
“Take Lake Lanier for example, [it] was built in 1956 or [so],” Hamilton said. “All those bridges that go over the lake or tributaries or rivers, the average life of a bridge in Georgia is 50 years… we have a huge challenge to take care of these bridges over the next 10 years.”
The panel also addressed education. Despite the Forsyth County school system’s success, the tate often ranks near the bottom in test scores.
Dudgeon, who once served on the local school board, said the state’s intervention with underperforming schools and new technology could help remedy the situation.
“I’m really big on the use of the Internet and digital technologies to supplement education,” Dudgeon said. “An easy example is I can’t get an AP physics teacher to move to small town Georgia. But guess what? I can [provide] an Internet terminal and a great lesson to that same kid.”
Williams, who was elected to the state Senate in November, is entering his first session next week.
“This is my first venture into politics, so I’m not sure what I’ve gotten myself into, but I’m excited,” Williams said. “I just kind of looked around and said, ‘I don’t necessarily like the way government’s going, the way we’re being treated.’ So I decided to throw my hat in the state Senate race, so here I am now.”
The panel also took several questions from the crowd, which covered fireworks sales, the creation of a potential second city in Forsyth County and gaps in worker skills. The lawmakers also distributed a survey to the crowd, asking attendees to identify the main local problem from a five choices.
Of those that answered the survey, 60 percent said transportation was the largest issue, while 24 percent said quality schools.
About 10 percent cited a reduction in the size of state government and the remaining votes were split between water needs and improving the state’s regulatory environment.