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Week 9 of Session includes budget, Facebook, planes
Dave Belton

The ninth week of Session we passed the “big budget” for 2019. The budget will total $26 billion, $1 billion more than last year. Keep in mind, the added monies came from additional revenues from increased prosperity, not new taxes. In fact, this budget includes the $1 billion per year income tax cut we just passed.

Ninety percent of this increase was consumed by non-discretionary expenses in education (+$582 million), healthcare and human services (+347 million). Another 10 percent increase goes to public safety, economic development, and other government. $44M will be spent on Rural Development and almost $12 billion will be spent on Education including an additional $361 million to the TRS system. As we voted on the bill late on Friday, and I have to write this column that same afternoon, I will break down the major expenditures next week.

The really big news for our area this week, of course, was Facebook. The Governor just announced that an initial $750 million project (including over 100 $100,000 jobs) will be located at Stanton Springs at the convergence of Newton, Morgan, Walton and Jasper Counties. Reported projections of the bonded projects are almost inconceivable: $42 billion investment by the global giant, including 500 jobs high-paying jobs in a million square foot data-farm.

Facebook executives pledge to hire locally and they are in this “for the long game”. They say that cheap energy, great workforce talent, and good partners are what brought them here. They’re committed to 100 percent renewable energy sources via solar power, and they want to “honor the land” by being environmentally friendly.

I want to say a special thank-you to all the past and present JDA (Joint Development Authority) members who represent Newton and Morgan counties. These visionaries have won themselves an impeccable legacy. Bringing us Shire, a $1.5 billion project offering 1,500 jobs, was a mammoth win that future generations could brag about. Bringing us Facebook is even bigger – in fact, it’s the single largest bonded project in Georgia’s history. We should be very proud of these public servants. 

We also celebrated Film Day last week to great effect for Newton and Morgan counties. Film is now the quickest growing industry in Georgia, employing 92,000 people (60 percent of which are minorities) at an impact of $10 billion a year. That number was only $241 million when Governor Deal took office. He was the genesis of this incredible growth, creating 18 new Film Academies all across the state that are completely free to attend. Because of his leadership, Georgia is now the No. 1 location in the world to make movies, producing 17 of the last 20 top grossing films. As the “Hollywood of the South,” Covington and her new Three Rings Studios are especially well-placed to prosper and thrive.

On the military front - in a very odd turn of events - the city of Burlington, Vermont voted in a referendum to reject the placement of the F-35 Lightening II there. Built by Lockheed Martin at Dobbins ARB in Cobb County, the supersonic stealth fighter is a “5th Generation” airplane that’s the future of air supremacy for decades to come. As Chairman of Military Affairs, I drafted a Resolution to urge the Air Force to locate those jets – and the 1,100 jobs and half a billion dollars of economic impact that goes with them – in Georgia instead. I am also working with my federal delegation, specifically Senator David Perdue and Congressman Jody Hice, to get that accomplished.  

I certainly need your prayers as I serve the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at davebelton112@gmail.com or 706-372-4114.