As we ended the 34th legislative day of the General Assembly on March 20, the end of the 2010 legislative session is in sight.
The highlight of the week was the passage of the House’s version of the 2010 budget. As I have stated previously, the budget is one of, if not the most, important functions of the legislature. At the beginning of each legislative session, the legislature receives the governor’s budget report, which includes Gov. Perdue’s revenue estimate and also recommendations for the budget. As required by Georgia’s Constitution, the state must operate under a balanced budget.
The FY 2010 budget, HB 119, was passed by the House by a vote of 123 to 49 on Thursday and includes a total budget of $18.6 billion in state funds. All revenue bills and the budget for the state of Georgia must originate in the House. The House has passed the 2010 budget and it was directly transmitted to the Senate. The Senate will then adopt their substitute to HB 119; the House can either accept or reject it. If the House rejects the substitute, the members will meet to work out their differences in Conference Committee.
It should be noted that we had to make some drastic cuts and the 2010 budget is significantly less than the original 2009 budget (12.3 percent, or $2.6 billion less). We realize that many of the people in the state of Georgia are suffering financially, and that is why we chose to tighten our belts instead of raising taxes. If this economy continues to decline, there will be many more cuts that will have to be made.
Although federal stimulus funds and money from the state’s reserve fund have helped mitigate the effects of the revenue shortfall, some state programs and services will be significantly reduced. These cuts were not taken lightly, and were only put in place after considerable study. Just as every Georgia family feels the effects of the economic downturn, state government does as well. No agency escaped scrutiny, and they are all facing some level of reduction. Due to the magnitude of the downturn in revenue, it is inevitable that expenditures for education be included as a part of the reduced spending.
In regard to health care, some of the items we were able to restore include: approximately $234 million to hospitals and $203 million to providers, funding for nursing home capital improvements and a 1 percent quality incentive, expanding our community health centers, funding undergraduate/graduate medical education programs, and providing some funding for state trauma.
Despite the cuts, Georgia is devoting a higher percentage of the budget to K-12 education. While the education portion has been reduced, the reductions to K-12 are much less than cuts to other agencies. In fact, education spending accounts for 46 percent of the House 2010 budget. This is an even higher percentage than in years past. Additionally, the House fully funded school nurses to ensure that our children have access to health care while attending class.
This budget conservatively applies federal funding to existing programs. While these funds have enabled us to alleviate the painful effects of our decreased revenue, we must remember that they are only a short term solution. The stimulus package is a one-time fix that will not be available for the 2011 budget. This is why we have worked so hard over this session to pass economic recovery packages such as the JOBS Act. Legislation like this will speed Georgia’s economic recovery by allowing the private sector to grow and create jobs.
All Georgians are affected in some way by the state’s budget. 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.