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APN Overview of Proposed 2010 Georgia Amendments 3 and 4

By Matthew Cardinale, News Editor, The Atlanta Progressive News (October 22, 2010)

(APN) ATLANTA -- There are five proposed amendments to the Constitution of the State of Georgia on the ballot in two weeks, as well as a statewide referendum.

Atlanta Progressive News spoke with several state lawmakers and local advocates to learn about the pros and cons of each one. In an article yesterday, APN considered proposed Amendments 1 and 2. This article will consider proposed Amendments 3 and 4. The remaining amendment and the single referendum will be reviewed in the near future.

AMENDMENT 3

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to allow the Georgia Department of Transportation to enter into multiyear construction agreements without requiring appropriations in the current fiscal year for the total amount of payments that would be due under the entire agreement so as to reduce long-term construction costs paid by the state?"

S. Res 821 is the resolution which proposed the amendment.

As far as where the cost savings would come from, Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, told APN "that gets into how you negotiate the contract. Theoretically, year to year [contracts] could cost more," than a single multi-year contract up-front.

Essig compared the situation to a lease on an apartment. "You might get a better deal on a three year lease, than on a one-year lease. The landlord will take less per year to have the security of knowing."

Currently, GDOT cannot enter a multi-year contract without setting aside the funds during the year in which the contract is created.

State Sens. Vincent Fort, Nan Orrock, and Curt Thompson, and Rep. Stacey Abrams, are each in support of Amendment 3.

"I voted in favor of the amendment and will vote yes at the ballot. Multi-year contracts are more efficient, increase competition and lower costs for the government, and allow for better long-term planning," Rep. Abrams said.

The Libertarian Party of Georgia (LPG) opposes Amendment 3 because of budget concerns. "We're spending money we don't have. They're spending future year budgets without regard to what future revenue will be. We can't predict what's gonna happen. Prior to 2007, 2008, we were collecting at significant amounts higher until the economic downturn," Bittner told APN.

Sen. Thompson noted that other states allow multi-year contracting and said that it would be up to GDOT to write the actual contracts in such a way as to give flexibility to the State to lengthen out the term of the contract should revenue to the state decline from projections.

"Artificial year-by-year budgeting is working against us," Sen. Orrock said. "In terms of federal projects, they want us to be able to make a long-term commitment."

AMENDMENT 4

"Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide for guaranteed cost savings for the state by authorizing a state entity to enter into multiyear contracts which obligate state funds for energy efficiency or conservation improvement projects?"

An organization called Taxpayers for Energy Efficiency (TEE) has been formed to advocate for the passage of Amendment 4.

The multi-year contracts which would be permitted by the amendment are called Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC's).

"Guaranteed energy savings performance contracting allows energy efficiency experts to first provide a comprehensive inspection and guarantee how much money the state will save with the installation of modern, energy efficient equipment and systems. Then, the state contracts with energy service companies to retrofit the buildings. The companies are paid back over a series of years (up to ten) with only the guaranteed savings. The state does not have to spend new taxpayer money for this initiative. The savings to the state are immediate as the maintenance costs associated with running decades-old equipment are no longer needed. And after the energy service company is paid through the savings, the state will realize as much as a 25 percent decrease in its overall utility costs," Jason Rooks, Director of TEE, said in a statement.

"Amendment 4 is a win-win proposal that will cut government waste, save taxpayers money, create more than 11,000 jobs, and make Georgia a more energy efficient state," Rooks said. "Rarely do voters have an opportunity to approve an initiative that unites diverse groups from the business community to labor to environmental advocates."

Environmental groups like the Georgia Sierra Club and Georgia Women's Action for New Directions have called on voters to support Amendment 4, including speaking in support of the amendment at a press conference at the Georgia Capitol on Wednesday, October 20.

State Sens. Orrock and Thompson are supporting Amendment 4, as is Rep. Abrams. State Rep. Stephanie Benfield, a progressive Democrat, also spoke in support of the Amendment in her recent Benfield Beat e-newsletter.

LPG opposes Amendment 4 because of budget concerns.

(END/2010)

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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