It’s Day 1 of Georgia’s 2010 General Assembly. The 40 day session has the potential to make or break the current leadership in Georgia. One big issue on everyone’s mind is the Budget.
Budget writers say they will take a very close look at all state programs to see if they can consolidate and cut their way out of the bad economic climate.
That means teachers could see more furlough days or state parks could close. Senate appropriations chair Jack Hill of Reedsville says reserves and federal stimulus dollars are running low.
Republicans in the majority will be faced with a budget that is $4 billion smaller than two years ago.
“The budget is in bad shape,” said Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), who is expected to be elected speaker of the House on Monday. “There is fairly widespread agreement that the across-the-board cuts, the nipping and tucking probably won’t be sufficient this session.
“It is going to be looking at a lot of programs and asking, ‘Is this something state government needs to be in the business of doing?’”
Longtime Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) said the state will be trying to get by on about the same amount of money it had in 2005. Since that time, Hill said, the state has added 600,000 more residents, many of them children who must be educated and poor families that rely on state health care programs.
Of course, Georgia is not the only state that has to face budgetary issues. But doesn’t provide a solution for Georgia. The 2010 Budget will be looked at carefully to see where Georgia can cut. Our legislators will take up the scalpel once again and try to finely deduct from an already tightly squeezed budget. The role of government could be a growing factor in what stays and what goes:
Kelly McCutchen, president of the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation, argues that the fiscal crisis gives state officials the perfect chance to re-evaluate what the government does.
Schools, he said, could increase the use of cheap online education programs to cut costs. More incentives could be given to state employees and teachers, he said, to choose high-deductible health insurance plans which would cost the state less money.
“You’ve got to look at the little things we shouldn’t be doing anymore, but the big dollars will come from changing the systems in the big areas,” McCutchen said.
Alan Essig, executive director of the liberal-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, agrees that the state will have to make fundamental changes over the next few years if it doesn’t raise enough money to continue funding the budget. His group wants the state to consider eliminating some special-interest tax breaks and review all the fees it charges, many of which haven’t changed for decades.
Every issue raised, every cent spent, and every action taken by the 2010 General Assembly will go towards voters’ decisions in this year’s elections. Georgia will have a new Speaker of the House, hopefully, a new attitude under the Gold Dome. We here at Peach Pundit wish the General Assembly all the best. Here’s to a great 2010. We’ll be watching.