Cowsert: It’s Your Money

Editor’s Note: Senator Bill Cowsert is the Georgia Senate Majority Leader. He represents the 46th Senate District, which includes Oconee County and portions of Clarke and Walton counties. He may be reached by phone at (404) 463.1366 or via email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter.

There is only one bill that the Georgia General Assembly has to pass each year – the budget. It is our predominant duty, more important than any law we pass under the Gold Dome and a duty more important that any partisan agenda. As your elected representatives and senators, we must remain good stewards of your money.

It is my opinion that Georgia citizens work harder and better than anyone else in the world. When the government takes a percentage of your money – no matter how small – we must ensure that Georgia and its citizens are better off for the effort.

The Georgia Constitution, unlike its federal counterpart, mandates a balanced budget. Since we cannot spend more than our tax revenues, we had to make large budget cuts when revenues fell during the great recession. As the economy recovers, our revenues are growing more than they have in many years, allowing us to restore funding in many areas of state government. We are seeing that Georgia – through budget cuts and thoughtful planning – has emerged from the recession stronger than most states. We are in an excellent position to prosper even more in the coming years.

In Georgia, we keep a “rainy day” fund to help balance our budget when the economy has an inevitable downturn. Our rainy day fund was more than $1.6 billion in 2007. These reserves helped us to weather the storm of the recession.

Our reserves dropped to almost nothing in the depths of the recession, but we have made it a priority to rebuild our rainy day fund over the past several years. Today, it is approximately $862 million, leaving Georgia in a great position to weather inevitable down cycles in the future. I am hopeful we will again have more than $1 billion in reserves by the end of this fiscal year.

This past week, the General Assembly has been in recess to allow the House and Senate Appropriation Committees to review proposed mid-year adjustments to the 2015 budget and to review the Governor’s proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year. Mid-year adjustments for 2015 include approximately $134 million to cover school enrollment growth, $75 million towards economic development programs administered through the Department of Community Affairs, and $39 million in additional health care spending.

This year, I am proud to say, Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a budget that focuses your money on the education of our children, on the health of our children, on public safety, and on the continuation of his economic development initiatives that will cultivate an atmosphere for economic growth so Georgia’s industries can create more and better jobs.

The proposed budget for 2016 includes expected total revenues of nearly $21.8 billion. Of this, nearly $12 billion is budgeted for education funding (pre-kindergarten through higher education), almost $5 billion for health care programs, and approximately $1.8 billion on public safety. These three areas alone make up more than 85 percent of our total budget.

For 2016, the Governor expects to add $550 million in spending for K-12 education. The funds will cover enrollment growth, an increase in the number of school days, reductions in teacher furloughs, improvement of bandwidth for schools’ internet services, and reliable education assessment programs. The Governor plans to add another $230 million toward education facilities and equipment.

In the coming weeks bills proposed, debated and passed by the General Assembly will complement the Governor’s initiatives and his proposed budget. I look forward to working for my constituents and with my constituents as we allocate our money toward the best purposes for this state.

16 comments

  1. Three Jack says:

    $5B for health care programs – I’m guessing mostly Medicaid. Cut half that handout and put it toward a real need that benefits far more than a few freeloaders – transportation.

    • Three Jack says:

      http://www.peachpundit.com/2015/01/19/budget/

      Adding fed funds to the state funds for ‘healthcare’, total comes to over $17B (39.2%), the single largest expenditure annually. We allocate more to healthcare than k-12 education and transportation combined. Seems to me Georgia legislators need to rearrange priorities before asking for a tax increase to fund transportation. It wouldn’t be easy, but there needs to be a real overhaul of the budgeting process focusing on growth oriented priorities over handouts, then maybe taxpayers will be more willing to go along with some form of new transtax.

      • saltycracker says:

        With 10 million population or 3.5 million households that’s around $1,700 per person or $5,000 per household.

        Is my math messed up, or no one has insurance or what is going on ? If we mandated private insurance for all, opened competition and added the premiums to state/Medicare/Medicaid payments/payroll. How much is that to GA ?

        • Three Jack says:

          Probably is messed up math there salty. How many of those 3.5M households actually pay state taxes? I’m guessing the actual per person/family number would be higher when you take just the taxpaying households thus making your point even more relevant.

          • saltycracker says:

            Was doing simple division w/o pay in considerations. Take a look at the percentages on food stamps and other benefits, add in the cost of fraud and admin, we got a number that the cost/benefit of the current system is out of wack.
            The system is broke.

      • Jon Richards says:

        Taking a look at the 2016 budget, we spend $2.512 billion of state general funds on the Department of Community Health. The rest is federal money or pass through / transfer, such as the tobacco settlement or hospital provider fees.

        Where does it go? $5.4 billion for Medicaid for blind/disabled, at a cost of $932 per month per recipient. $3.9 billion for low income Medicaid, at a cost of $264 per month per recipient. The next biggest category is the state health benefit plan at $3.1 billion.
        Keep in mind that the federal funds going to DCH can’t be reallocated to other purposes like transportation. Also we have some major challenges with healthcare delivery here in Georgia that aren’t going to be solved by spending less money.

    • Will Durant says:

      [sarc] Hey quit your bellyachin’. GDOT’s budget is being increased by a whoppin’ $12 million i.e. 5 hundredths of one percent of the projected FY2016 revenues. [/sarc]

  2. Will Durant says:

    “It is our predominant duty, more important than any law we pass under the Gold Dome and a duty more important that any partisan agenda.”

    Yet the legislative branch consisting of a one-party majority has effectively ceded this duty to the executive branch of the same party. No partisan agenda here at all. Woe be unto him who bucks the Governor. Nothing to see here folks, move along. The emperor has no clothes and that is definitely a sight you don’t want to see.

    • I see this being related to the CON fight between hospitals (no don’t pay prop tax) and physician practices / offices, who may.

      In other news, there’s nothing charitable about Hospitals, and I question many churches’ mission work. Mostly the big ol’ churches (12stone, et al), as they seem to only have big services to pass the plate, with little other programming and mission work.

      • saltycracker says:

        We believe we can tax something simply because it exists – property tax – and then selectively set up codes to circumvent that rule. Many “charities” deliver a fraction of their monies to the cause and many that do are the envy of for profit enterprises.

        Best to end taxes because it exists and take a rake of the action like a casino does when playing at the money table.

  3. jmacs12000 says:

    Well Sir, perhaps the tone of your comments drastically overstate your ability to properly manage the budget while drastically not stating the need or reasons for 3/4 of a BILLION dollars increase in education spending. Growth in student enrollment really caught my attention. People with any means are fleeing public education. How much of this GROWTH is due to illegal residents (illegal immigrants). We already are paying huge sums thru local property taxes for education. Lets face it, we’ve got increased revenues and your throwing money at a non responsive bureaucracy because they are the ones’ (school employees, unions, lobbying groups, legislature members who work in schools) who’ve been advocating this line for over a generation. Their goal is building up their salaries and retirement accounts. No doubt 1 teacher per 1 student would produce better results, but we cannot really measure the results. We must reduce the number of government employees not increase them. Either do away with property taxes or stop state funding. This is a tremendous waste of money with so far very poor results. Get your roads straight if you really want economic growth and improve job prospects for all these very expensive, educated, but unemployed children.

  4. Dave Bearse says:

    “It is my opinion that Georgia citizens work harder and better than anyone else in the world.”

    Patronization undermines, not enhances, integrity.

Comments are closed.