While the members of the General Assembly were not in session this week, there was a flurry of activity around the Capitol.
The House and Senate came together during the recess for joint budget hearings. Each state agency and the head of each department presented a brief overview of their budget, including what impact the governor’s proposal will have on their agency. Following these joint budget hearings, the House and Senate will now separately hold budget hearings during which the specifics of the budget, and the funding of each state agency/department, will be discussed. While the governor made the initial budget recommendations, the final details will be determined by the legislature.
In his budget remarks, Gov. Deal provided us with positive news. Before December 2011, we saw 18 consecutive months of year-over-year revenue growth. This puts the fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013) estimated revenue at $19.2 billion, an increase from the $18.3 billion estimate that we used to pass the FY 2012 budget.
With this increase, Gov. Deal hopes to invest in schools and infrastructure projects, fill holes in Medicaid, and ensure our prisons are fully equipped to keep dangerous criminals off the streets. Even with this additional spending, when adjusted for inflation, per-capita spending in the budget recommendation for FY 2013 is 20.5 percent less than FY 2002 spending levels.
While investments are needed in education and infrastructure, my colleagues and I are committed to maintaining a lean state government. Despite a 1.5 million person increase in population between 2000 and 2010, Georgia’s state government workforce has decreased by 7.7 percent between FY 2001 and FY 2011. This means that we are providing more services with fewer resources, and that is a habit that we intend to keep.
In our joint appropriation meetings, we were able to see how state agencies are cutting back. For example, Brian Owens, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, outlined how the state’s criminal justice program has decreased the number of prison facilities while expanding the state’s capacity to hold criminals.
The one constitutional requirement of every legislative session is the passage of a balanced budget. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the opportunity to be directly involved in the budgetary process. In Georgia, we have a balanced budget and are not allowed to spend more than the state takes in, unlike our Washington counterparts. Once the budget hearings are completed in both chambers, the General Assembly passes an appropriations bill, which then must be signed by Gov. Deal.
The General Assembly continued its work at the Capitol on Monday for the sixth legislative day of session. I will continue to keep all of you informed throughout the 2012 legislative session. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas, thoughts or concerns. It is both an honor and privilege to continue serving you in the Georgia General Assembly.
If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write to me at: State Rep. Jon Burns, 18 Capitol Square, 228 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.