Much has been written about the Department of Revenue’s May revenue report and the fact that total revenues (hard-earned taxpayers dollars) were up 27.9 percent over the previous year following April’s negative month report. Probably the best thing to do is to wait on June’s report and look at the last quarter and the entire year in total.
Just for the record, individual income taxes for May were up 45.4 percent or $453 million dollars. Actually sales taxes were negative for the month at -4 percent or (-$20 million) following a troubling trend for this year. Again, a look at the end of the fiscal year will lead to some conclusions. Fuel taxes continued the upward trend, increasing 18.2 percent or $11 million. What is most interesting is that the excise tax, which is collected by the gallon, continues to increase (up 20 percent in May), and has risen to record levels again. This may reflect growth in the state:
Year to date, revenues (taxpayers hard-earned dollars) are up 7.6 percent, with personal income taxes up 9.9 percent and sales taxes up 3.7 percent. So far the state has taken in $17.8 billion including tobacco and lottery funds, an increase of $1.1 billion. Fuel taxes are up 21.6 percent or $157 million YTD.
Is a “redirect” a constitutionally-valid veto?
The governor, in addition to vetoing specific appropriations and bond projects, has redirected appropriations from the language in the appropriations bill to other uses. This action muddies the water on gubernatorial authority when you read an earlier Attorney General’s opinion dated Feb.11, 2000. While the opinion deals with a veto of part of an appropriation and not with re-directing appropriations, it does shed light on the strict interpretation of “veto” and leaves little doubt as to the veto parameters provided for in the Georgia Constitution after the Legislature has passed the Appropriations Bill.
Then-Gov. Roy Barnes had vetoed the amount that exceeded his original budget request for regional economic development grants. This was not a veto of the entire amount but an attempt to veto a part of the appropriation as listed in the appropriations bill. (“I veto any amount above $617,500). As a non-lawyer, I was glad to read in that opinion the use of the dictionary to define words like “veto” and “approve.”
The opinion quotes the American Heritage Dictionary 1346 (2 d Coll. Ed. 1991). The opinion concluded that the Constitution strictly uses only the words, “approve,” “veto” and “appropriation” and that those two choices, “approve” and “veto” are the only two choices a governor has under the line-item authority granted by the Constitution. And that “veto” only means, per the dictionary definition, to “forbid or prevent, authoritatively prohibit” and when viewed versus the action defined in the term “approve” leaves the only choice “to consent or to refuse consent,” again from the dictionary definition.
To a non-lawyer, it seems clear that this interpretation is consistent and correctly quotes earlier A.G.’s opinions “the appropriations veto limits the power to accepting or rejecting a whole appropriation.....”
So for those reasons, legislators disagree with re-directing specific appropriations as opposed to vetoeing or approving.
Listed below are the budget re-direct vetoes by department. Note the funds are not vetoed but just re-directed to other uses. Many are dismissive rather than redirections.
Department of Community Affairs re-directs
• $100,000 for 16 regional development centers was re-directed to prepare for the local update of census addresses initiative.
• $250,000 from the Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund to the city of Richland for an emergency water system was re-directed back to the fund.
Department of Community Health re-direct
• $300,000 to implement a regional health information technology pilot partnership with the Medical College of Georgia was re-directed to partnership with the federal government for the pilot.
Department of Corrections re-directs
• $1,422,224 to increase the county jail subsidy from $20 to $25 per day was re-directed to pay for the current rate. A subsequent agreement will raise the rate to $22.
• $500,000 for the expansion of County Correctional Institutions to house state inmates in rural Georgia was reduced to $278,784 with the remaining funds for operations.
• $100,000 to purchase equipment for the inmate construction program was re-directed to pay for utilities.
Department of Early Care and Learning re-direct
• $11,872,902 to reduce funds for 225 slots to provide for an increase in operating expenses was re-directed and increased for additional slots.
Department of Economic Development re-directs
• $2,000,000 for the City of Gainesville for the demolition and renovation of a parking deck was re-directed to international marketing and recruitment.
• $2,500,000 for the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center was re-directed to the tourism projects.
Department of Education re-directs
• $625,000 to the Dropout Prevention program and $500,000 for three new performance learning centers was re-directed to provide alternative education programs statewide.
• $1,590,857 to provide foreign language media materials for elementary schools students statewide was re-directed to provide approximately $1,200 to each school for foreign language media materials.
• $354,075 to Advanced Placement exams for private school students was re-directed back to public schools.
Next week – Human Resources and other departments
Visit the Legislature’s home page at www.legis.state.ga.us
To view the FY2008 budget in its entirety: www.senate.ga.gov - Tab - Budget Reports
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