Caution! The Georgia Legislature Goes Into Session

Prospects are the worst for those on the low rungs of the socio-economic ladder, and not just because of the immediate effects of budget cuts, but because of long-term damage caused by draconian cuts to public education. Up to another 2 billion dollars will have to be cut from the state budget.  Not only is tax revenue not keeping up with budget demands, but federal stimulus money is ending. That should please all of those who opposed taking stimulus money in the first place.

The council that is recommending “tax reform” reportedly wants to rely even more on  the sales tax, the most regressive of taxes. Regressive taxes take a higher percentage from low-income tax payers than high-income tax payers. For one thing, it is expected to recommend reinstatement of the sales tax on the most basic of commodities, food. 

Another program that truly helps middle-class families, HOPE, is in trouble because college tuition fees have grown more than state lottery income.  Something has to be done to save this highly popular program that enables many middle-class youngsters to attend college. Recommendations include increasing the GPA requirement, rejecting students who are in remedial courses, and using financial need as part of admission criteria. If the legislature fails to save this program, perhaps we’ll get a new legislature when the next election rolls around. 

Already down by three billion dollars over the last eight years, more draconian cuts are planned for the state’s public school system.  This could mean more teacher furloughs and worse.  This is really depressing because the future of the people of this state depends on better public education.   

Rep. Calvin Smyre, GA House District 132

Representative Calvin Smyre puts it this way in his online legislative report:  “Although state revenues have increased by 7.4 percent through the first five months of fiscal year 2011, balancing next year’s budget will be more difficult because Georgia will not be able to take advantage of federal stimulus funding as we have the past two years. Gov.-Elect Deal, who is proposing a tax cut for corporations, has already put local public school systems on notice to brace for further funding cuts. Over the past eight years, the state has already slashed more than $3 billion in funding to local schools, causing larger class sizes, fewer school days, teacher furloughs and layoffs and higher local property taxes.”

In transportation, the legislature is expected once again to ignore the need for commuter rail. This means the Atlanta area gridlock nightmare will probably get worse.

Well, the legislature certainly has one thing going for it:  very low expectations.

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