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Burns: $2.6B in cuts werent easy
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As the sixth week (24th legislative day) of Georgia’s legislative session wraps up, many necessary items on the agenda were accomplished. The Georgia House passed out the mid-year budget this week, which was a sigh of relief for some. Overall, the bills that were passed covered a wide variety of issues.  

The budget is always the number one item on the agenda for the legislative session.  The supplemental appropriations bill for fiscal year beginning July 1, 2008, and ending June 30 was passed out of the House last Thursday by 168 to 5. The $18.9 billion midyear budget includes funding for the operation of state government, its departments, boards, bureaus, commissions, institutions and other agencies. With the aid of federal money (around $145 million), we were able to avoid some of the difficult cuts; however, we still had to cut back.  

Given the challenges and constraints of these economic times, the budget we passed was very reasonable. We tried to keep from hurting those that are most vulnerable in our society. As I have mentioned in previous reports, the economic situation we are in makes detailing the budget for the state of Georgia a very difficult task. We had to make approximately $2.6 billion in cuts and it was not an easy choice. We realize that we are in hard times right now and we tried to restore funding that was necessary for the people. For instance, we funded the Homeowner’s Tax Relief Grants and other various programs, such as the Meals on Wheels, which many of our senior citizens rely on.  

Education is a priority and in the budget we tried to restore some of the funding for education. We realize how essential our local school systems are and how budget cuts can have drastic effects on our communities. Now we will have to focus our attention to the next fiscal year which begins July 1.  

Energy needs have been an increasing concern in Georgia for the last several years. According to the 2006 State Energy Strategy report, Georgia’s demand for electricity grew 61 percent from 1990-2004 and will sustain an annual growth rate of 3 percent over the next several years. Nuclear energy has operated safely and securely in Georgia since 1975 and currently provides more than 20 percent of the state’s electricity. Nuclear power is a safe, clean and affordable source of base load electricity that produces zero emissions.

For these reasons, the House passed a bill last week that will address how to finance the construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in Burke County. This bill, Senate Bill 31, will lower the overall cost of the project that will lead to lower rate charges for consumers. The average increase will be around $1.30 on each customer’s power bill.

Failure to pass SB 31 would have cost Georgians an additional $300 million in interest alone. By paying a slight increase in cost now we will ultimately lower our costs in the future. It will allow Georgia Power to raise customer rates in increments over seven years, instead of raising rates at the time of construction, which would have been around 12.4 percent. This bill will provide Georgia’s citizens with low cost and clean energy and in return will reduce the state’s reliance on coal and natural gas. We are fortunate to have companies that are willing to invest in Georgia.  Since this bill has been passed by the House and Senate, it will now go to Gov. Perdue.  

The decisions made at the State Capitol affect all Georgians, especially in the tough times we are all facing. For this reason I want to hear from you. I was elected to represent you, and welcome your emails and phone calls.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5116 or