Worthan commented on these issues at a Friday meeting at the county courthouse of Board of Commissioners members and local legislators. The meeting is hosted each year by Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Winston).
“We’re going to continue to lose jobs to other states if we don’t do something about congestion,” Worthan said. “Businesses are bypassing Georgia because of traffic problems.”
He called for extension of the Interstate 20 HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes out to Bright Star Road and more bus routes into the county.
Rep. Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta) suggested the county back the 1-cent regional sales tax whose proceeds would go toward rapid transit and bus systems.
“To me, this solves the problem,” Bruce said.
However, Worthan said he’s not in favor of the regional sales tax.
“Our residents just approved a 1-cent SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) to build a new jail,” he said. “I don’t think they would go for another 1-cent sales tax now.”
However, Worthan expressed interest in transportation legislation which Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) said he plans to sponsor.
Bearden proposes adding 1 cent to the state motor fuel tax, with the proceeds going back to the county where the funds were generated.
“The Georgia motor fuel tax is only 4 cents now, the lowest rate in the country,” Bearden said.
District 3 Commissioner Mike Mulcare asked the legislators to increase court clerk filing fees, with most of the funds generated coming back to the county.
Mulcare said since the current fees are too low to pay the actual clerk fees, the property owners are unfairly subsidizing court costs.
“I’m suggesting users pay for court costs and not the property owners,” he said. “However, if the state does increase the fees, I fear the state will take most of the money instead of sending it back to the counties.”
Mulcare also complained that the state has been adding an undue amount of fees to traffic tickets.
“Everytime they want to fund something, they tack it onto the traffic tickets,” he said.
Mulcare cited one case where a woman was stopped for not having her lights on during the rain. After all the fees were added on, he said the ticket went from $150 to $439.
“I don’t think people realize what the costs are after all these fees are tacked on,” he said.
District 2 Commissioner Kelly Robinson asked the legislators to look at job creation.
“We have one of the highest unemployment rates here and corporations can’t absorb all the job losses,” he said.
Robinson called for state programs that would educate people on skills and entrepreneurship
so they could create ways to earn money.
“We have to get away from depending on the government,” he said. “We have to teach people how to earn it.”
Worthan also expressed concern that the state is closing three more prisons, with a total of about 3,500 beds. He said the length of time that state prisoners are kept in county jails is too long and this action will make it even worse.
“Our concern is we’re housing federal prisoners while we’re sending our inmates to Irwin County,” he said.
He also noted that foreclosures are having a huge impact on property values. He said these lower valuations don’t necessarily mean lower taxes. He said the county still has to provide the services that residents want, which requires tax funds.
In addition to Hembree, Bearden and Bruce, other legislators attending included Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) and State Sen. Donzella James (D-College Park).