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Wednesday, July 7, 2010 - 1:09pm

Ga. House Speaker Touts GOP Work

House Speaker David Ralston is criss-crossing Georgia this week on what's being called a tour highlighting G.O.P. accomplishments during this year's legislative session.

In a speech for local Republican officials in Savannah, Ralston said the G.O.P. state legislative majority should be re-elected because of the way it handled the budget.

He also highlighted transportation, trauma care and ethics bills that passed the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

But Ralston did not include K-12 education among Republican accomplishments in his 15 minute speech at Signature Aviation, where statewide officials fly-in for brief media events in Savannah.

Speaking to reporters after the speech, Ralston said, state lawmakers dealt with cuts to education as best they could in a tough budget year.

"I am proud of the way we've gotten through this because I think that we're still spending more of the state budget on education than any other single item," Ralston said. "We're still increasing resources."

Educational leaders, however, say, school systems across the state are straining under the weight of sacrifice.

"After years of austerity cuts, teacher furloughs and lay-offs, including 1,000 school employees in Cobb County alone, I don't know what he means by ['increasing resources']," said Jeannie "Sis" Henry, the head of the Georgia School Boards Association. "I think that statement speaks for itself."

Next year's General Assembly could discover even more budget woes.

Georgia won't be getting any more help from the federal stimulus and the state's "rainy day fund" is nearly empty.

Ralston said, he thinks education "probably" has sacrificed enough, but would not rule out further cuts next year.

"I will make promises if you can tell me exactly what the economy's going to do," Ralston said. "We need to find a period of prolonged, sustained improvement in the economy before we can make those commitments."

He said, he believes a panel looking into overhauling Georgia's tax code this summer will come up with ways to grow the economy.

The speaker's tour also planned to stop in Tifton, Dalton, Suwanee, Warner Robins and Metro Atlanta.