ATLANTA — This week the Georgia General Assembly passed the amended fiscal year 2009 budget fulfilling the state Constitutional requirement for a balanced budget by June 30. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill has led the efforts of the budget negotiations through the Senate.
“This balanced budget is the result of the hard work between the House and Senate working well together for all of Georgia,” Hill said. “It’s been a long, tough road with the incredible shrinking budget from $21.1 billion to $18.9 billion, and I want to thank my colleagues for their diligence and commitment to cutting waste and restoring necessary programs. Even with the cuts, we managed to focus on those who needed services the most, namely the elderly and children.”
The budget restores the $428 million Homeowner Tax Relief Grant (HTRG) and also replaced education cuts with federal stimulus funds. Legislators also funding to keep Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime labs open.
In addition, funds were restored for domestic violence shelters and for slots for the mentally disabled. Lawmakers have stressed that Georgia’s federal dollars were utilized for needed projects rather than excessive earmarks. Some additional highlights of the budget include:
• Reducing the government agencies by approximately $1 billion
• Restoring the mental health funds
• Addressing consumer protection by providing for four new food safety inspectors
• Achieved $10.5 million in savings from lower interest rates, taking advantage of the state’s triple-A bond rating
Hill noted, "We have also maintained the state’s triple-A bond rating, which is vital to stabilizing the state’s economy because it keeps interest rates low. The triple-A ratings reflect the highest rating available to government issuers and demonstrate what a great value Georgia municipal bonds are to investors.”