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Governor discusses economy with Rotarians

CONYERS - Gov. Sonny Perdue gave members of the Conyers and Rockdale Rotary clubs an optimistic outlook on the state's economic future Thursday, despite the fact that his department heads are working to trim approximately $1.6 billion from their budgets.

While the economy may appear grim, he said once the state and the country have bounced back from the downturn, they will be better situated for having gone through it.

Perdue described watching former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testify before Congress earlier Thursday.

"He believes once this financial turmoil shakes out, we'll be a much sounder financial structure ... and I believe the same thing," he said. "The sooner we get back to the fundamentals of productivity, of producing things rather than chasing a deal or chasing a fee, and create something of value that others can utilize, the better off we'll be."

He said that Georgia residents will have to do some belt tightening, and their representatives in state government will be doing the same.

"None of us really knows what's going to happen," Perdue said.

"We're in unique times. But the resiliency of our state and our nation is such that I think the American spirit rises to the challenge in times like that, and I think that's what we'll see.

"As we wrestle with budget issues at the state level, we're gonna do what it takes. We're going to think about the citizens that we serve, and make those decisions and those budget cuts with the most compassion in mind ... where it doesn't affect the citizens that need it the most. I think we will do that while meeting the balanced budget and protect the things that are most important to Georgians."

He added that at the national level, he would like to see the passage of a balanced budget amendment. "It forces policy makers to make the same kind of tough decisions that we in Georgia are forced to make," he said.

"I'm glad that Georgia has a balanced budget amendment, because it makes our decision reflect the reality of where we are.

"We witnessed some good times over the last three decades, frankly. In a five-year economic period ending in 2006, we saw strong economic growth, which allowed us to be conservative in our spending and build up a healthy savings account ... understanding that the good old days don't last forever. When we were approaching a healthy revenue reserve, some people wanted to start accusing us of hoarding money, and that may sound strange now."

In order to prevent future economic turmoil, Perdue called on Georgians and Americans to realign their expectations when it comes to their pursuit of "the American dream."

"You can't tell everyone they can have that American dream, a home for little or no money down, with interest-only payments on the first couple years. Eventually, we've seen that catch up to us. We bought into that as a society. We lost our perspective there for a little while," he said.

If you jump off an 80-story building, for 79 stories, you think you're flying. It's that last story that gets you. It may feel good for awhile, but there is a landing at some point, and we've got to be careful about that."

Colin M. Stewart may be reached at colin.stewart@rockdalecitizen.com.