Georgia says

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on work ethic matters:

Most Americans support the concept of a strong work ethic. They also oppose wasteful spending. So does Congressman Jack Kingston. His record of pro-jobs, anti-waste during his two decades in the U.S. House speaks for itself.

But the Savannah Republican could have done a much better job in explaining his positions on those two topics last week at a meeting of Jackson County Republicans.

Kingston, who's running for the U.S. Senate, is being attacked by liberals — and even a competitor in his own party — for suggesting at that event that school children pay a nominal amount for lunches or sweep the floor at an early age to teach them that there's "no such thing as a free lunch."

For the record, here's what the lawmaker said, according to an item posted last week in on ajc.com: "On the Agriculture Committee we have jurisdiction over the school lunch. The school lunch program has a 16 percent error rate. The school lunch program is very expensive. Of course it looks good compared to the school breakfast program that has a 25 percent error rate.”

The congressman said later that he meant "all children" should do something to teach them the value of work. That's hardly novel or controversial.

In fact, it's something responsible parents do on a regular basis when they give their children chores to do around the house. At one time, even the schools were part of this teaching process, as students would clap erasers, clean blackboards or do other menial tasks. No one was hurt or insulted.

This flap is a molehill being made to look like a mountain, a product of a slow, pre-holiday news cycle. But as is often the case in today's hyper-critical, intensely monitored political environment, it wasn't Mr. Kingston's larger point that got him in hot water.

It was how he expressed it.

The government's free or subsidized lunch program provides the only decent meals that some children will have that day. Kingston is right to point out the waste, as that means there's less money to help those who need it. But he should have been clearer in saying that he wasn't just picking on poor kids. Rich kids who may be spoiled by their parents could benefit from these important life lessons, too.

Kingston, no doubt, learned something as well — there's no such thing as a free pass in a tough political fight when you let your guard down.

Cherokee (Ga.) Tribune on how legislators should keep trying to change tax laws:

Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes, better known these days as "SPLOSTS," were set up to help local governments and school systems pay for brick-and-mortar needs, not salaries or new programs or for routine maintenance. But what used to seem "special" doesn't seem so special anymore, not with SPLOSTs being employed to a degree few envisioned when they were conceived back in the 1980s.

The result is what has often been described as "SPLOST fatigue," with voters growing disenchanted with repeatedly being asked to approve a SPLOST referendum seemingly every year or so. And a glance at the poll results shows that even successful SPLOSTs lately have passed only by hair's-breadth margins.

What tends to happen now is school boards and commissions pump up the scope of their SPLOST project lists to match the size of the expected revenue stream. If fractional SPLOSTs were legal, the pressure would be on those bodies to downsize their lists to include only the items that were badly needed. That in turn would make the SPLOST referendums easier to justify to voters.

State Rep. John Carson (R-east Cobb) led the effort last year to persuade the Legislature to change the law regarding SPLOSTs, but it ran into opposition from the Georgia Municipal Association, the lobbying group for the state's cities. Many of its members fear that county governments would hog the SPLOST revenue under such a proposal and refuse to share any of it with the cities. So Carson has updated his bill to require counties calling for a split-penny SPLOST to first sign an intergovernmental agreement with the cities in that county.

Carson's updated bill also would reduce the timeframe needed between the SPLOST referendum date and the implementation date for the tax from 80 days to 45.

Even if the Legislature approves Carson's bill in the coming session, the state Constitution would have to be amended, so we're not talking about split-penny SPLOSTs as a quick-fix for local funding questions. But it is a concept very worth pursuing, and it is an issue that local legislators should continue to make a priority.



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