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Candidates tackle the issues at forum

CONYERS - Transportation and budget issues dominated the discussion during the Rockdale-Newton League of Women Voters forum for local state Legislature candidates.

Tuesday's forum was the first event of the season to highlight the local legislature races. Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, and his Democratic challenger, Rudy Cox of McDonough, squared off for the 17th District Senate race.

Douglas touted his fiscally conservative philosophy and said he would look at cutting the budget before voting for a tax increase.

"I've learned that we cannot tax ourselves out of a recession, but you have to give the money to the consumers to spend us out of a recession," Douglas said.

He proposed budget cuts across the board to spread the pain rather than depending on cuts from a few state services.

"We're going to have to do some belt-tightening to get through this," he said. "We can't just do one area, say, for example, close all of the state parks, and expect us to make up the shortfall from that."

Cox, an educator for 32 years, said he believed the state could help those affected by the downturn in the economy through policy changes. He said it was important to find ways to help people who are defaulting on their mortgages in order to stop home foreclosures, which, in turn, will help stabilize the economy.

"We have to find ways to keep people in their homes," he said. "We're doing it for Wall Street, so I think we can do it for Main Street, too."

On transportation, Douglas said he would support a new 1 percent sales tax to fund local transportation projects, often referred to as a T-SPLOST. He said a bill to put a T-SPLOST amendment on the ballot failed by three votes during the last General Assembly session. Douglas said he believed a new measure could pass during the next session.

Cox did not offer a plan to help with transportation projects, but he reiterated that reducing traffic congestion is a key factor in helping the economy prosper.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.