Posts Tagged ‘Georgia state budget’

Caution! The Georgia Legislature Goes Into Session

January 10, 2011

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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Senatorial Candidate Josh McKoon’s Solutions to the State Budget Crisis

March 26, 2010
With attorney Ron Mullins out of the Georgia Senate District 29 race, Josh McKoon, former chair of the Muscogee County Republican Party, could be the replacement for Sen. Seth Harp, who is running for Georgia Insurance Commissioner, but who is still a state senator and has to deal with the budget crisis at the state capitol. Feeling that the crisis will continue if Josh takes Seth’s seat in the Senate, I decided to find out where he stands on the issue. The online interview follows:

1. How do you feel about cutting $300 million for Georgia’s universities and colleges?

Candidate Josh McKoon and the man he could replace in the Georgia Senate, Sen. Seth Harp (Photo was supplied by the McKoon campaign)

No one feels good about reducing funding for our institutions of higher education or K-12 education for that matter. It does appear that the additional reductions that were being discussed will be less than originally anticipated. It is going to be important as we go forward to continue to make education a top priority in building future budgets.

2. Are there other cuts that could be made instead of draconian cuts in the education budget?

Education needs to be at the top of our budget priority list. I’m not sitting around the table at the budget meetings, so it is difficult to second guess what additional cuts might be made at this time. I do believe that if we start with the proposition that we are going to focus funding on core functions of government instead of personal pork projects that we can identify more money for education.

3. How about the water and transportation problems? They are still very much with us.

We must improve our bargaining position in the water discussions. I plan on working with Republicans statewide to make sure our region has a seat at that table. We also can improve our bargaining position by moving aggressively on conservation measures, increasing our capacity through permitting of new state reservoirs and research of additional ways to bring new capacity online, such as desalination.

Transportation as an issue involves two primary problems, governance and funding. We are in a much better position on the governance side after the adoption of legislation last year to streamline operations at GDOT as well as the welcome move of bringing one of the most experienced legislators on transportation issues, Vance Smith, into the Department as the Commissioner. I have proposed increasing funding for GDOT by adopting legislation that would require revenue generated by the unit tax on motor fuel to be spent on DOT Project List items instead of being put into general appropriation where the revenues may be used for personal pork projects.

4. Would you support a tax hike of some sort?

I am a fiscal conservative. I believe trying to tax your way out of problems causes more problems. We need to focus our spending only on core functions of government and if we prioritize in that fashion we will identify more tax dollars for education, transportation and infrastructure.

5.Is the legislature to blame for not being better prepared to handle this budget crisis? Surely they had to see this coming.

In hindsight, one can always identify other things that could have been done to prepare for a crisis. Unfortunately our legislators did not have the benefit of that hindsight prior to the budget crisis. This is the worst economic slide since the Great Depression. No one could have predicted the extent and nature of these economic conditions. I think it is far more valuable for one seeking to set public policy to focus on the future and how we get out of this mess. Focusing on the core functions of government reduces the need to impose tax liabilities to our citizens. This allows the introduction of tax incentives to stimulate economic activity and get things moving again in the right direction.

6. Are there any statesmen left in the Georgia legislature?

Senator Seth Harp for one. Seth has done a great job of serving our district and I am proud to have his support. Yes I believe there are many good men and women working hard to improve public policy in Georgia.

GA Attorney General Candidate Still Has to Deal with State Budget Crisis

March 8, 2010

AS THE GEORGIA LEGISLATURE RECONVENES TODAY, THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION IN THE STATE IS AT STAKE, WHICH MEANS THE FUTURE OF GEORGIA IS AT STAKE.

Rep. Rob Teilhet, Cobb County, GA, Democratic candidate for Attorney General

I was interested in what Cobb County Rep. Rob Teilhet had to say about his bid to become Georgia’s next attorney general, but I was just as interested to what he said to me before his talk to Muscogee County Democrats, because we discussed the financial disaster facing public education, Medicaid, and other state services.

These are issues he still must deal with because he still represents the people of his area of Cobb County, and, actually, he and all legislators represent all Georgians.  The problem, he says, is that the proposed budget is about $20 billion dollars,  about $2 billion more than revenues will provide, so something has to give.

The legislature can cut the education budget even more, including $300 million for higher education, which will mean teacher layoffs,  fewer courses being offered, and larger class sizes for the teachers that remain. There is talk that the elementary and high school year will be shortened from 170 to 160 days.

Rep. Teilhet tells me that the legislature is considering cutting state Medicaid payments by 17  percent.  He says if that happens, some hospitals will probably close, especially the smaller ones in rural areas.

It appears that, even though it’s a hard thing to do, taxes are going to have to be raised, I suggested.  He agreed, pointing out that a bed tax for hospitals could keep the Medicaid program at its current level. That’s what Governor Perdue is suggesting. A $1 cigarette tax is something that Georgians appear to be willing to support he said.  That would raise $400 million, enough to prevent destroying higher education.

Now, back to the reason he came to Columbus, to get local Democrats to support his bid for the attorney general job.  He promises to be tough on crime –  it seems candidates for attorney general always promise that – and tough on those who prey on the state’s consumers.  He also wants a stronger ethics law. I pointed out that’s a legislative matter. He said that the attorney general can also recommend legislation  to the General Assembly.  He also said that, as attorney general, he would prosecute violators of that law.

You Gotta Watch Them!

January 29, 2009

They are very busy spending your money, deciding who gets it,  and who doesn’t.  They also determine a lot of other things in your life and a lot of them just love it when you don’t pay attention to what they a re doing, because what they do may be very much in their financial and political interests, but certainly not yours.  I am of course talking about your representatives and senators in Atlanta.  (Washington, too, but that’s another story.)

Meanwhile, I’ll pass along a website to you that may help you keep up.  My Harris County friend Joann Locascio alerted me to this website and I am passing it along  to you.  You might want to add it to such sources as the fine GPTV Lawmakers program,  and others.