Northeast Georgia Candidates Discuss State Budget, Need for Rural Broadband

Candidates across Northeast Georgia may not agree on everything, but one thing many agree on is the need for access to rural broadband. The Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual forum Oct. 7 for various races in the region. Issues surrounding the state’s revenue shortfall due to COVID-19 and the need for access to rural broadband took center stage.

Democratic candidate Dawn Johnson in the State Senate 47th District had to join the forum on her cellphone because her home WiFi wasn’t reliable enough, and viewers were unable to hear Republican Bo Hatchett, and Hatchett had to reinstall Zoom.

Frank Ginn, the incumbent Republican in the State District 47 race said the budget should be created so that taxpayer dollars are distributed responsibly.

 “When you start talking about the budget, there’s a lot of things we want to make sure to prioritize, and that’s the toughest part of what we do. That’s the biggest piece of legislation we pass each year. I want to try to make sure we’re spending your tax dollars appropriately,” Ginn said.

Dawn Johnson, the Democratic challenger, thinks the budget could focus more on social services.

“We also need to prioritize. We’re putting up a $5 million fence around the state Capitol today. That money could have gone to support pregnant mothers with addictions. I think that we are going to have to be austere with our budget, but not cruel with it,” Johnson said.

In the 50th State Senate District, Republican Bo Hatchett said the budget should prioritize essential services first. 

We should have a healthy budget but the priority is always education, agriculture, first responders. We’ve got to take care of those areas of the budget,” Hatchett said. 

Democratic challenger Dee Daley believes the state’s budget shouldn’t leave out education and rural health care. 

“Whether you want change or not, it’s coming to all of us. My comment is, let’s take a look at the education, but also we must stop just cutting,” Daley said. 

Pete Fuller, the Democratic nominee for the State House 31st District said his biggest priority is getting high-speed internet to Jackson County residents.

Fuller’s opponent, incumbent Republican Tommy Benton, was unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict.

Benton wasn’t the only candidate unable to make the forum. Republican candidate for the 9th District Congressional race Andrew Clyde’s campaign said he had a scheduling conflict due to a campaign event in Dahlonega that was planned before the forum.

Conner Hendricks is a sophomore intended journalism major at the University of Georgia.

 

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