Georgia House Speaker David Ralston’s first day on the job was cold and dreary, a sign of things to come with the dilemma facing the Georgia Legislature.
Ralston, 58, a Blue Ridge lawyer, was chosen House speaker in a special election in December 2009, when Georgia faced its greatest budget shortfall since the Great Depression.
Ralston said the budget had to be cut in the same way people reduce budgets at home and in business when money is short.
“You sort of don’t spend more than you bring in,” the speaker said.
Georgia government’s budget was decreased by 20 percent during a three-year period without raising taxes. “Other states didn’t take that route,” Ralston said, noting Illinois and California.
Ralston, an Ellijay native, spoke Friday morning at the South Georgia Intelligence Network Law Day Breakfast at The Plaza Restaurant.
In attendance were close to 150 law enforcement officers, members of the judiciary, district attorney office personnel, U.S. Secret Service employees and court officers from Thomas County and the surrounding area in Southwest Georgia and North Florida, along with several state senators and representatives. A representative from the Washington, D.C., office of Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson also attended.
“He is our kind of people,” Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell said while introducing Ralston. “He’s down to earth, somebody you enjoy spending time with.”
Politicians move in and out of power, Powell said, referring to previous House speakers, and pointing out a coup to remove a former speaker.
“When it was over, the leader of the coup became speaker of the House,” the sheriff said in reference to Ralston.
The speaker said Illinois and California drove small businesses and other employers away and reduced employment.
Ralston wants Georgia to be “the most job friendly and small business friendly state” in the nation.
See Saturday's edition for more details.