Secretary of State Kemp has passed along the following Op-Ed explaining his decision to close the State Archives to meet a 3% mandated cut that each agency must find. We’ll give him this time in his own words. I’ll have a bit more to say about it next week.
Any budget, no matter if it is a family budget or a state budget, reflects our priorities. These priorities are not based solely on wants or needs, but rather on what can be afforded. During these difficult economic times, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office simply cannot afford to keep the State Archives open to the public.
The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) instructed my office to reduce our budget by 3% ($732,626) for the coming year. While this cut is steep, it reflects only a small portion of the millions of dollars in reductions we have already absorbed over the past several years. Our Agency budget has been cut by more than 25% from $32.1 million dollars in 2008 to $23.7 million dollars for the coming year – an $8.4 million dollar decrease. To put this in staffing terms, our Agency has reduced its workforce by 38%, from 350 to 216 employees.
As Secretary of State, it is my job to ensure that budgetary decisions strategically reflect our highest priorities and impact as few Georgians as possible.
Federal government requirement prevent us from considering cuts to the budget of the State Elections Division. We cannot and will not jeopardize secure, accessible, and fair elections in Georgia.
Our Securities Division is charged with protecting Georgians from financial fraud. Because of increased responsibilities from the Dodd-Frank Act and the fact that the Division’s budget has been reduced from $1,804,043 to $833,891 since 2008, any further reduction would leave Georgia’s citizens vulnerable.
The Corporations Division processes hundreds of thousands of registrations for Georgia businesses and produced $44 million dollars in fees for the state last year. If the Division’s budget of $1.3 million was cut and staff was reduced, the wait times for corporation filings and renewals would increase.
Nowhere have budget cuts been felt more by the citizens of Georgia than in the Professional Licensing Boards Division (PLB). This division protects Georgians by ensuring almost 500,000 qualified individuals are licensed to work.
Because of past reductions and increased workloads, Georgians are now waiting, on average, five times longer to renew a professional license and more than three months for a new license to be granted. Last year in the PLB call center, one out of every four callers was unable to reach an operator. Further cuts would reduce efficiency, reduce revenue, and lengthen the time it takes to get Georgians working.
The Secretary of State’s Office is unique in that last year it generated $81.5 million dollars in fees, but it receives a state appropriation of only $23.7 million dollars to perform the duties of the office. This is less than a third of what we take in, and this unfortunate reality means that only funded functions can be maintained.
It is my sincere desire for budget conditions to improve so that the 3% cut would be eliminated or an additional state appropriation can be made so that Georgians can once again have improved access to the State Archives.