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General Assembly gets under way
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

The first week of the 2016 General Assembly convened on Jan. 10 with two new members of the Senate taking their seats: Sen. Larry Walker III of Perry, 20th Senatorial District, and Sen. JaNice VanNess of Conyers, 43rd Senatorial District.

The governor delivered his State of the State address and released his fiscal year 2016 amended and FY17 budget proposals. The proposed FY17 budget totals $23.7 billion, with the largest appropriation of $825 million for transportation projects with an additional $300 million in QBE funds for education. Funds are appropriated for a 3 percent pay increase for teachers and funds are included as well for a 3 percent raise for state employees, Regents faculty and staff.

Net revenues “so-so” for the month
December’s revenues netted out at 3.6 percent gain for the month on total receipts of $2.04 billion. Fuel revenues made up about half of the total revenue gain of 7.1 percent for the month.

Individual income taxes were up only 2.5 percent. Withholding payments only increased 1.5 percent, while estimated payments were up 7.0 percent. Refunds were up 25.8 percent.

Sales taxes for the Christmas season will show up in January’s returns, but for December’s reporting period, net sales tax collections were negative at -1.1 percent.

Corporate income tax increased 7.3 percent and title ad valorem tax collections increased by $17.8 million, or 35.4 percent. Tobacco and alcoholic beverage taxes were positive at 11.9 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.

The trailing 12-month average for state revenues is sliding somewhat, now showing 6.0 percent. SBEO figures show state revenues for FY16 to be currently $215 million ahead of budget after six months.

Legislation introduced in the Senate last week:

• SB 254-Reduces simple possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor. (In Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)

• SB 255-Provides constitutional protections to debtors in garnishment proceedings, as well as further defining the procedures involved. (In Judiciary Committee)

• SB 260-Prohibits the purchase of a firearm by any current party to a divorce proceeding, except with permission of the presiding judge. (In Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)

• SB 263-Local governments would be authorized to allow retired law enforcement officers to retain their weapon and badge. (In Public Safety Committee)

• SB 264-Provides for pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing and for their regulation and licensing. (In Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee)

• SB 269-In order to receive state funding or grants, local governing bodies would have to demonstrate that they are not providing sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. (In State and Local Governmental Operations Committee)

Who funds retirees’ COLAs?

We have received several calls asking about cost of living increases or COLA’s that retired state employees have not received for several years. According to OCGA §47-2-21(a), COLAs are not funded by the Legislature, but are considered by the Employees Retirement System Retirement System Board of Trustees.

Teachers Retirement System (TRS) is different and according to OCGA from many years ago, teachers pay in what amounts to about 3 times the amount state employees paid in, and thus the COLAs are “pre-funded.”

I may be reached at
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