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Republicans, Dems make positions known

COVINGTON - Republicans called for conservative spending and staunchly opposed higher taxes at a rally held in downtown Covington prior to a county budget work session Wednesday night.

With Democratic commissioners supporting a millage rate increase to balance the budget, Republicans decided to get out and make their voices heard.

"We just wanted to see the underground majority, the silent majority, come out of the woodwork," said party member Elizabeth Christian.

"I don't want to be taxed any more. I pay enough taxes," she added.

Several Democrats attended the gathering, standing silently holding up signs. One read "This budget fiasco didn't start on 1/1/09," and one claimed GOP was an acronym for "Greedy Obstructionist Panderers."

Democratic Party member Sarah Todd said they were there "to show people that we are supporting our commissioners in this time."

"We know they are in this mess from the previous administration," she said.

Republican Party Chairman and former county commissioner Ester Fleming disagreed with that claim. He told the crowd that the millage rate stayed at 9.73 mils during his eight years on the board, which resulted in an increase in revenue that was needed to fund services during a time of unprecedented growth, but now, that growth has slowed.

"We want to pay our fair share of taxes, but that's it," he said.

State Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, offered this solution: "Everybody who wants their taxes increased leave your addresses so we can give it to (commissioners) and they can do that. Leave the rest of us alone."

"It is impossible for government to tax us into prosperity," he said. "Our county government has got to learn to live on what we have just like our families learn to live with what they have."

But Democrat Charles Woods said he could live with a slight tax increase if it meant protecting public safety jobs and achieving a balanced budget. He commended the Democratic commissioners for being willing to take an unpopular stance.

"The Democrats are having to make the difficult decisions. The Republicans are making accusations but not giving any specifics," he said.

Both sides talked about pork in the budget, but wouldn't get specific. When pressed, one member of the Democratic Party admitted he didn't know that much about the budget. Several Republicans declined to name the projects to which they referred.

What both sides agreed on was that public safety personnel must be spared.

In the end, it seemed everybody walked away happy: Commissioners reached a consensus to keep the millage at 9.73, with 16 jobs to be cut, and none coming from the Sheriff's Office.

"I'm glad they were able to hold the line and not raise any taxes and keep the public safety jobs," said Christian, the Republican.

Democrat Todd said she, too, was pleased with the outcome.

"I'm glad the situation was able to be worked out as it was. We were happy and extremely pleased with the way the commissioners worked as diligently as they did to make this ending for everyone in the county," she said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.