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Setting The Record Straight: Moore and Horner’s Misleading Messages on GA Finances
State Senator Colton Moore took to the Senate floor last week and bemoaned that Georgia's historic debt was ignored by Governor Kemp's amended budget proposal, even as the state enjoyed a record $6 billion surplus. State Representative Mitchell Horner, on the other hand, had for weeks been decrying the governor’s proposal in weekly appearances on Judy O’Neal’s Night Talk on UCTV. In the video posted at the end of this article, he misled viewers and cried foul about new bonds allegedly issued at a fantastical 12% interest rate, protesting the additional strain on the state budget.
If such bonds were, in fact, available, then we should all scramble to load up our retirement portfolios. Unfortunately, Horner's claim is nothing more than a work of fiction.
Moore and Horner's impassioned exclamations, however, are not merely misguided; they are disingenuous. Their focus on interest and debt is a sleight of hand, a diversionary tactic to mask their own inability to effect meaningful change.
The truth is that Georgia's debt is well within the bounds of the state constitution limit, and the governor's proposal for around $600 million in new bonds falls in line with the average over the past decade. In addition, the state has maintained a AAA credit rating from the three major rating agencies for more than two decades. Eight states share this distinction. This shows investors and citizens that Georgia's finances are in good shape.
The state constitution restricts general obligation bond financing to capital assets, such as infrastructure, ensuring that taxpayers who benefit from the projects bear a fair share of the cost over time. General Obligation bonds make up the bulk of the debt.
Moore and Horner's call to use the entire surplus for immediate debt repayment or upfront payment for capital projects is a strategy that would unfairly burden today's taxpayers while absolving future generations of their responsibility.
Let's say a new highway costs $1 billion dollars, can be built in one year, and will last 15 years. By issuing bonds to finance the cost of the new highway, the repayment of the debt and the cost will be spread out over the lifetime of the highway. Consequently, taxpayers, both in years one and 15, pay for the asset they are benefiting from.
Moore and Horner's proposal would require the taxpayers in year one to cover the entire cost of the asset! So, despite the fact that some taxpayers may leave the state, their taxes would benefit Georgians for years to come and give some a free ride in the future.
Turning to their second point, Georgia's bond interest payments are not the sinister drain on resources that our legislators would have us believe. In reality, these payments benefit many of the state's retirees who hold the bonds. Furthermore, as Milton Friedman always noted, government spending, except for debt service, often hampers productivity and growth. With interest and principal payments on debt, the government mitigates its own tendency toward inefficiency. See the video below for Horner’s comments, followed by a Milton Friedman clip debunking him.
Moore and Horner's misguided fixation on debt and interest payments betrays a lack of understanding of governance and leadership. They wear their opposition to various proposals as a badge of honor, mistaking their intransigence for principle. The truth is that their inability to sway colleagues or enact meaningful change reveals their ineffectiveness, not their integrity.
Relationships are the lifeblood of collaborative decision-making in the Georgia General Assembly, yet Moore and Horner seem to excel at alienating their fellow legislators. They bang their drums of dissent, but their noise does little to advance the interests of their constituents.
A generous helping of epistemic humility would serve these gentlemen well. Effective leaders acknowledge their mistakes and shortcomings, demonstrating a willingness to learn and question their assumptions. Moore and Horner, unfortunately, appear trapped within their self-righteous bubbles, an affliction all too common among the political class lately.
Think of it like this.
Imagine citizens have hired an attorney to fight on our behalf in court cases to achieve a desired outcome. In the realm of legal representation, citizens would be rightfully aghast if their hired lawyer consistently lost case after case while pursuing their cause. Surely, one would not heap praise upon an advocate who repeatedly failed to sway the opinions of judges and juries and instead drove them away through ill-conceived tactics and a penchant for alienation. Why, then, should the citizens of Northwest Georgia reward Moore and Horner, who are, in essence, their hired advocates within the political sphere?
Much like a lawyer who fails to win over the court, these legislators have demonstrated an alarming inability to persuade their colleagues to join their side on issues. Rather than employing diplomacy and building relationships, Moore and Horner's actions have served to further distance and estrange their fellow legislators. To champion their cause, citizens should expect their representatives to engage in thoughtful dialogue and employ a strategic approach to enact meaningful change.
It is not enough for Moore and Horner to merely stand in opposition to proposals they dislike. As the elected representatives of their constituents, they are duty-bound to fight effectively for their cause, just as a lawyer is bound to zealously represent their client's interests. Instead, their repeated missteps, coupled with their penchant for alienation, only serve to undermine their constituents' interests.
In the legal arena, a client would seek a new advocate if their current counsel consistently failed to achieve positive outcomes. Similarly, the citizens of Northwest Georgia should consider whether Moore and Horner are truly the most effective advocates for their cause. In the political sphere, as in the courtroom, it is not enough to simply stand against an issue; the true measure of success lies in one's ability to effect meaningful change in line with the values and needs of those they represent.
From State Senator Colton Moore: "This week, the Georgia State Senate voted on our State’s record budget and what to do with our historic $6 billion surplus. We have never had this much extra money as a State. We have historic debt as a state, and very little of this surplus went to pay back some of the $10 billion in Georgia’s bonds."
From State Representative Mitchell Horner: "That being said, my big issue though is we have a six billion dollar surplus, so why are we taking 600 million dollars out in new bonds at a 12 interest rate? It's a ridiculously high-interest rate for the state, and um it costs us roughly 1.4 billion dollars a year for just interest payments so you know for sure that we're going to do that that's for sure in the budget six 699 million dollars at a bond rate of um is like 71 billion dollars a year I mean 71 million dollars a year to pay off so every year so we're increasing the budget 71 million dollars a year just for interest payments and so it's it was that is my red line"