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Hill: Refunds cut into revenues
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The February state revenues continued a freefall, declining by $336 million, or 34.8 percent. State Revenue Department officials stated that faster refunds were partially responsible for the drop, indicating that Georgians on unemployment might be filing income tax refund applications sooner in 2009 than they did in 2008.  

Still the decline brought the year to date revenue decrease to $835 million or -7.3 percent. The present revenue target is a -6.9 percent, so the state is not even meeting the adjusted revenue goal. State income tax revenues were down $191 million, or a shocking 63.6 percent. Sales taxes were down 13.4 percent while the local sales tax distribution increased by 4.6 percent. Motor fuel tax collections continued to decline to $21 million or -25.4 percent. Year to date income taxes have declined $463 million or –8 percent while sales tax revenues are down 5.3 percent overall. Fuel taxes have declined $54 million or -8.1 percent YTD.  

Individual refund returns were up $127 million in February. Individual withholding payments to the state were down $130 million or -2.3 percent and estimated individual payments declined $155 million or –21 percent.    

Senate passes DOT legislation
The “Transportation Governance Bill” passed the Senate on March 5 by a 30-25 vote. This legislation would transfer all functions, duties and obligations of the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) and the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) to the newly created State Transportation Authority. The Authority will control, award, grant and disburse the state and federal public transportation funds in accordance with the appropriations acts, allocations and statewide guidance and policies of the Authority.

The board of the State Transportation Authority will be comprised of 11 members: five appointed by the governor, three appointed by the lieutenant governor, and three appointed by the speaker of the House.  Members’ terms are coterminous with appointers’ terms; they are a maximum of four years long, and limited to two terms of service. Every four years, the authority would develop the statewide strategic transportation plan and allocation formulas to ensure proper distribution of moneys from available funds.  The Authority will make budget requests annually and submit a list of prioritized projects to the governor and the General Assembly for appropriations.  

Under this legislation, the State Transportation Board would remain intact as an oversight committee but many of its powers would be removed. Georgia legislators would still appoint State Transportation Board members once every five years.

Legislators will select specific local projects that will be funded through 10 percent of the annual transportation appropriation and will have more control of the annual transportation budget. Instead of motor fuel funds being given directly to DOT, they would be appropriated through the budget process, just like every other state agency.     

Additional Senate action last week
• SB 2: Increases the punishment for eluding a police officer in a motor vehicle.

• SB 15: Provides procedures for the quarantine and clean-up of properties where the manufacture of methamphetamine is occurring or has occurred.

• SB 65: Permits credit for time served in confinement while awaiting transportation to a probation detention center.

• SB 86: Would require that persons applying to register to vote would have to provide proof of citizenship.  

• SB 117: Requires the Department of Economic Development to create and maintain a Web site informing the public of Georgia manufacturers and goods manufactured in Georgia.
• SB 136: Requires the Department of Corrections and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles to participate in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Rapid Removal of Eligible Parolees Accepted for Transfer (REPAT) Program. Expedites the deportation process of aliens incarcerated or eligible for parole.

• SB 151: Provides greater options for family members of victims when presenting victim impact statements (audiotaped, videotaped, etc.).

• SB 157: Would require sentencing courts to assign convicted sexual offenders to risk categories based on the likelihood of re-offending. Would also require the DOC to notify sheriffs 15 days prior to the release of sexual offenders and provide fingerprints, photographs and the sexual offender’s address.    

• SB 163: Authorizes the commissioner of DHR to appoint a diabetes coordinator and allows the department to serve as the central repository of diabetes treatment and prevention data.  

• SB 206: Requires the governor’s budget report submitted to the General Assembly to outline a three-year history of tax exemptions and credits.

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