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Posted: Tuesday, June 17th 2014 at 3:49pm

Ralston: Harbor expansion great news for Georgia

By Mitch Clarke, Editor
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Rep. David Ralston, speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, speaks Tuesday to the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville.
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston on Tuesday called the upcoming dredging of the Savannah River harbor the most exciting economic development project of the last 10 years.

Ralston, speaking to the Gainesville Kiwanis Club, said the dredging will allow new, larger container ships coming through the Panama Canal to dock in the Port of Savannah harbor and will give industry more incentive to locate and expand in Georgia.

“I know many of the industries here are already excited about this project because it will give them access to markets worldwide,” Ralston said.

Ralston said that more than 230,000 private-sector jobs have been created in Georgia in the last four years, spurred in part by some of the policies enacted by the Georgia General Assembly. He specifically mentioned the eliminated of sales tax on energy used by manufacturers.

“Government cannot create jobs, but government can create an environment condusive to the creation of jobs,” the speaker said. “That’s what we are trying to do – stimulating growth by reforming the tax code to make Georgia more attractive to business so they will move here, expand here and be happy here.”

Ralston said decisions made by lawmakers played key roles in the decision by Kia to expand its West Georgia plant and by Caterpillar to build a new plant in Northeast Georgia. He also said tax credits created by the General Assembly have made Georgia No. 2 in the nation in the film and TV industry, behind California.

Pinewood Studios in Fayetteville is now the largest production studio in North America outside of Hollywood, Ralston said.

Ralston said that while state government was hit hard by the economic downturn, it has rebounded significantly in recent years.

He said the tax burden on state taxpayers is 15 percent less today per capita than it was 10 years ago, the number of state employees has been reduced 16.5 percent over five years and the state’s rainy day fund – used to offset revenue reductions during economic strife – is now over $700 million and growing. He also said Georgia is one of just seven states to have a AAA bond rating, giving the state favorable rates when it needs to borrow money or sell bonds.

“We have, I think, been very good stewards of the state’s money,” Ralston said.

Ralston faced a contentious tea party challenge from Gilmer County High School wrestling coach Sam Snider in May, but won a decisive victory. He is unopposed in November.

He said the campaign, his first serious challenge in 10 years, was a positive experience.

“I got a perspective I don’t get at the Capitol. I got a perspective I don’t get from the news media. I found people – and I think this is true in most places in Georgia – who feel pretty good about coming through a tough time. For all the problems they see in Washington, they feel pretty darn excited about the future of Georgia.”

Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News, Politics

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