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Searching for savings
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Working from an estimated shortfall of $1 billion, House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees held week-long hearings to search for additional savings and budget cuts. The accumulating shortfall in this year is now estimated to be approximately $1.7 billion or about $300 million more than the amended budget was based upon.

The announced plan by the governor is to move to the FY2010 budget federal stimulus dollars now budgeted for FY2011.This, of course, leaves a hole of possibly $300 million in the FY2011 budget. Combined with other factors including the reduced revenue estimate, the total new hole to be filled adds up to $1 billion. These are not the only holes in FY11, but apparently we will cross those bridges when we get to them.   

How bad is it?
Under the “Misery Loves Company” category, here are a few comparisons of the woes Georgia shares with other states and where we rank.
In 2009, Georgia lost 173,000 jobs, while Florida lost 232,000 jobs, Alabama lost 65,000, Tennessee lost 89,000, North Carolina lost 124,000, and South Carolina lost 37,000. So Georgia was second in the Southeast.

Actually, as high as our unemployment was in December 2009, Georgia’s unemployment rate, 10.3 percent, is the lowest in the Southeast. South Carolina was at 12.6 percent, Florida at 11.8 percent, North Carolina at 11.2 percent, Alabama at 11 percent, and Tennessee was at 10.9 percent.
Sales tax wise, Georgia’s narrow tax base places its negative growth the worst in the Southeast in the third quarter of 2009. Georgia is at -14.7 percent, Alabama at –13 percent, Tennessee at -9.5 percent, Florida at -8.2 percent, North Carolina at -2.7 percent, and South Carolina, the only positive state, was at 1.7 percent.

In personal income decline, Georgia’s decline in the third quarter, 2009, was second worst at -1.4 percent behind Florida at -2.6 percent but higher than South Carolina at -0.9 percent. Alabama at -0.7 percent, Tennessee at 0.5 percent growth and North Carolina at -0.4 percent.
These figures were presented as part of an economic forecast by Dr. Rajeev Dhawan of Georgia State University.

Senate action last week
The following legislation has passed the Senate:  
• SB 305: Authorizes the Department of Transportation to use the design-build method and increases the percentage allotted for construction projects from 15 to 30 percent.
• SB 371: Specifically authorizes the Georgia Bureau of investigation to investigate residential mortgage fraud cases.

Awaiting final signature:
The following legislation has passed the House and Senate:
• HB 168: Telecommunications reform which phases out the Universal Access Fund.  

Signed by governor:
• HB 926: Allows banks to renew or restructure certain loans to a single person or corporation that would normally exceed lending limits matching federal regulations.  

Under Senate consideration:
Bills of interest that have recently been introduced in the Senate:
• SB 370:  Requires the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Facilities Authority, the Department of Community Affairs, the Forestry Commission, the Department of Community Health, the Department of Agriculture, and the Soil and Water Conservation Commission to identify opportunities to provide programs and incentives for voluntary water conservation and enhancement of the state’s water supply by Aug. 1, 2010.  
• SB 380: Grants the Georgia Environmental Facility Authority’s Water Supply Division (WSD) the power to make loans and grants to local governments to pay all or any part of the cost of expanding and increasing the capacity of existing permitted reservoirs.  
• SB 397: Establishes the “Blue Alert” system which is activated when a suspect involved in the death or serious injury of a peace officer has not been apprehended.
• HB 908: Allows local school systems to waive expenditure controls for direct instructional costs, media center costs, and staff professional development costs without penalty for the next three years.  
• HB 907: Would allow each local school system to receive funding with any combination of middle school grades. As of now, middle school programs are only eligible to receive funds if it houses grades six, seven and eight together.  

I may be reached at
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