James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 56



continue, as will the demands on the budget.
How will Georgia compensate for this growth?
Increasing tax rates is a non-starter. In fact, the General
Assembly is set to consider lowering the top income tax
rate again during the 2020 legislative session, costing the
state an additional $550 million in lost revenue per year,
thereby requiring further expenditure cuts to balance the
reduced revenue.
Therefore, the final key factor to consider is spurring
economic growth. One of the most effective economic
development strategies is investing in the education system. In fact, research has found that the level of cognitive
skills of a population has a large impact on its subsequent
growth rate. Analysis of robust economies shows that
countries that combine both near universal attainment of
basic skills across the entire population with the ability to
support a substantial cadre of highly skilled citizens show
the most sustained growth over time.
As Georgia looks to jumpstart a relatively sluggish
economy, discussions about the impact of these budget
cuts should consider the effects (both short and long
term) on its education system. It is important to note that
the K-12 education funding formula (QBE), Medicaid and
transportation are all excluded from the proposed cuts.
Therefore, a significant portion of state education funding
is currently protected. However, other areas that support
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JAMES
MARCH/APRIL 2020
strong education outcomes are being considered. Some
of the largest proposed cuts for FY 2021 include a reduction of $35.4 million in funding to the Department of
Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, a $19
million reduction to the Department of Juvenile Justice,
and $28 .8 million to the Department of Human Services,
which include cuts to child welfare services and 101 child
support service positions.
Georgia has taken important steps in recent years to
recognize and address the impacts of non-academic barriers on student outcomes, such as poverty, mental and
physical health, and community impacts. Even the state
Department of Education has championed the need to
support the whole child and address non-academic barriers to learning as part of the continuous improvement
and success of the public education system. In doing so,
Georgia has seen impressive academic gains.
As the state weighs potential budget cuts, it must
address the need to balance the state budget as well as
meet the commitment to serve all students and not lose
the education progress we have made. There’s no doubt
that the educational attainment of a state’s population—
its workforce— is critical to supporting economic growth
both now and in the future.
Dana Rickman, PhD is the Vice President at the Georgia Partnership
for Excellence in Education.
homas Bailey Murphy was born in 1924 in
Bremen, Haralson County, Georgia. Like most
Georgians of that time, his was a modest beginning. None, including his parents and even
Murphy himself, could have imagined the tremendous
positive effect he would have on Georgia and its citizens.
Murphy graduated from Breman High School, attended North Georgia College and during World War II served
in the Navy in the South Pacific. After discharge from the
Navy, he attended the University of Georgia School of Law
and graduated in 1949. That same year, he was elected to
the Bremen Board of Education. In 1960, the Democrat
was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives,
serving as both a school board member and a legislator
until 1965 when he left the school board.
The year was 1973 when he was elected
speaker of the House of Representatives.
When elected, neither Murphy nor any of
the then-members would have thought
he would serve for 28 years, through
2002, and becoming the longest serving
speaker in Georgia’s history. And when
his tenure ended, he was the longest
serving speaker, of those presently serving as House speakers, in the nation.
This information helps you to know
“about” Murphy but does not let you know him.
It would take you serving with him in the House for
you to really know him. And, candidly, that may not have
been sufficient. So, let me do the best I can, realizing that
I will fail. Nonetheless, I believe I am as qualified as anyone to help you better know this man.
It is 1972 and a House member from Perry, Sam
Nunn— a distinctive “long-shot”—is running for the United
States Senate. As a political novice and largely unknown,
I’m running for the seat held at that time by Nunn. Nunn
beats Gov. Jimmy Carter’s Senate appointee, David
Gambrell, and Nunn becomes a U.S. senator. I beat my
opponent and become the state representative from Perry.
Then, on the second Monday in January 1973, I am
sworn in with House Speaker George L. Smith presiding. I take my assigned seat with a tall, handsome
young man to my left introducing himself as Joe Frank
Harris (then vice-chair for the Appropriations
Committee) and the man to Harris’ left introducing himself as James “Sloppy” Floyd (then the chair of
Appropriations). I knew I was in a very good place.
In December 1973, Speaker Smith has a stroke,
lingers for a short while, and then dies. Of necessity, an
election is scheduled to elect a replacement. My seat
mate Harris says, “Larry, we are going to vote for Mr.
Murphy.” I say “OK.” and do. Murphy is elected.
I supported the winning candidate and I’m quickly on
good terms with those in the House inner circle.
There are 180 House members. Most are ambitious
and trying to move to better committee assignments
and leadership positions. Given the large number of representatives, “moving to the inner circle” it is not easy.
But I am close friends of several of those running the
House – Joe Frank Harris, Marcus Collins, Bill Lee,
Denmark Groover, Jack Connell, Al Burris, and Terry
Coleman come to mind.
Things are going well for me and then I get a big
break. With the significant help of Murphy, Harris
(a longer-shot candidate than was Nunn) is
elected governor. Harris asks me to serve as
his House administration floor leader, which
I immediately accept. With Calvin Smyre
(Georgia’s first African-American in a
leadership position), Warren Evans and
Jimmy Benefield, Harris’ House “team” is
successful in getting the governor’s programs passed. And then Majority Leader Al
Burris dies toward the end of Harris’ first term
and I become House majority leader.
I am now in the inner circle and in close daily
contact during the legislative session with the speaker.
This will continue for 16 years. On my wall in my law
office is a photograph with Mr. Murphy and me at the
House podium, and with the inscription: “…Larry Walker,
my right arm and friend and a great Georgian.” We were
close. Let me tell you more about him.
Tom Murphy was a fundamental man. He dealt in the
basics. How many times have I heard him say: “Give it to
me with the bark off.” In other words, tell it to me exactly
how it is. That was the way he gave it to you, and he
expected you to give it back to him exactly the same
way. He was a conservative, especially with the taxpayers’ money. If you asked him his political philosophy, he
would have said “conservative.” But he also had a very
broad “populist” streak. He was for the underdog, the less
fortunate. I saw it when he took money out of his pocket
to give to the homeless, and I saw it when continued on page 58
MARCH/APRIL 2020
57

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