Like the majority of states across our nation, Georgia is experiencing an economic crisis and the House continues to struggle with budget decisions. We may have to take drastic steps in order to balance the budget including the difficult task of deciding what cuts will be made.
A balanced budget means that the amount of money spent during the fiscal year cannot exceed the amount of money collected. This makes the budget process very complex, but ensures that the state of Georgia does not operate with a deficit.
Budget cuts of 10 percent or more have already been enforced and additional cuts are expected. The state revenue for January of this year dropped over 14 percent, a decline of around $260 million compared to January of last year.
But it is evident that further budget cuts will have to be made. The state of Georgia is now looking at close to $3 billion in cuts which will undoubtedly affect everyone in our state.
Last week, several important pieces of legislation were voted on in the House. HR1 failed to obtain a constitutional majority by a vote of 105-67. This resolution would have allowed the citizens to vote on limiting the property tax reassessment caps on residential and commercial property. This legislation may be reconsidered this week. Most legislators realize that it is important to have greater accountability of taxing authorities and transparency for the citizens in Georgia.
Another bill relating to property tax reform, HB 233, passed the House on Friday by a vote of 110-63. This bill creates a two-year moratorium on property reassessment increases and requires that each parcel of property be reassessed at least once during that time. The property reassessment can be decreased during this time, but not increased.
Legislators are working together on this in an effort to keep property taxes down and make sure that reassessments are fair.
Aside from property taxes, there were also two important announcements last week. The House Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee announced the creation of a new special subcommittee. The subcommittee will take a broad look at the overall agricultural standards in the state.
After the recent problems at the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, I am happy to see the House take this proactive step. This subcommittee will ensure that Georgia remains a leading producer of agricultural products in the country. I am proud to be part of this committee.
Also last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson announced their selections for members of Georgia’s regional water planning councils. These 10 regional councils will create regional water development and conservation plans for each of Georgia’s major river basins. It is my hope that these regional councils will make certain that our water resources are used wisely as we continue to implement water planning and conservation strategies.
As the economy worsens, unfortunately crime in Georgia is increasing. HB 140 relates to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and would create a state-wide blue alert system to increase the apprehension of violent criminals who kill or seriously injure local, state or federal law enforcement officers. This bill is in the House Rules Committee and if passed would ensure the protection of our officers in Georgia and would make certain that violent criminals are apprehended.
This past week in the House was one of serious scrutiny as we carefully consider the best avenues for balancing our budget. Just as every family in Georgia is facing tough decisions about paying bills with less income, as legislators we must be responsible and methodical in our approach to making decisions regarding our state.
My responsibility to you is my concern and I will keep you informed as the legislative session proceeds. Every legislator is accountable to the people he or she represents and I welcome your comments and input.
Contact Rep. Burns at email@example.com or at (404) 656-5116.