Trey Kelley Introduces a Resolution to Limit the Growth in Spending

A resolution that would limit the growth of state spending got its first hearing in the House Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee last week. House Resolution 305, sponsored by Republican Trey Kelley of Cedartown, would use changes in the consumer price index and state population growth to cap the amount of money lawmakers could put into the following year’s budget. If revenues exceed the capped amount, they would be deposited to the state’s reserve fund, or returned to taxpayers in the form of a rebate. In order to spend more than what would be permitted under the growth formula, legislators would have to pass a standalone resolution approved by two thirds of House and Senate.

In the hearing, Rep. Kelley explained the bill as a common sense measure that tries to make sure the Georgia of the future is as great as what the state is enjoying today. Committee Chairman Chuck Martin of Alpharetta said that the bill’s limit on appropriations would be a good companion to the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year capping the income tax rate.

The proposed legislation is a version of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights that has been proposed in several state and local governments, but has only been approved at the state level in Colorado. And while the measure limits the rate of increase of the budget, it does nothing to ameliorate a decrease in the case of a recession. As a result, if state revenue should drop one year due to a difficult economic situation, the resulting lower spending level mandated by the requirement to balance the state’s budget would become the baseline for the following year’s budget increase, even if revenues were to increase to pre-recession levels.

This “ratchet down” effect is one potential drawback to the bill. According to Taifa Butler, the Deputy Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, HR 305 would place rigid restrictions on spending that would cripple investments in transportation and education. Speaking as a witness at the committee meeting, Butler said the bill tries to address a non-existing problem, noting that the Peach State is 46th in state and local revenue per person, and ranks in the bottom five in many spending categories. She also pointed out that some of the things the state provides money for, including school enrollment and Peachcare have been growing faster than the general growth in population.

Rep. Kelley said that he deliberately tried to make the bill less rigid than the TABOR used in Colorado, where a citizen referendum was originally required to allow for spending beyond what that state’s TABOR mandate. The fact that a two thirds vote by the legislature can override the spending limit makes his bill different than the one in Colorado, where the ratchet down effect eventually forced the state to develop a less restrictive model. And Rep. Martin agreed that a more precise measure than population increase and the growth in the Consumer Price Index may be necessary to prevent unforseen consequences.

No committee vote was taken on Rep. Kelley’s proposal, and he admitted that introducing the legislation was intended to start a multi-year conversation about budget priorities and spending. Even if the measure were to be passed by the legislature, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment before the proposal could be put into effect.

16 comments

  1. saltycracker says:

    Don’t sweat it. They will never get past defining, meddling with or redefining CPI and population growth.
    Meanwhile at home you should spend/budget within your income/revenue.

  2. I suggest if legislators want to copy something that Colorado has done, they could start with Medicaid expansion or decriminalizing weed, as those are two examples of laws Colorado has enacted that weren’t an abject failure.

    TABOR, meanwhile, was a huge failure. But I get it, Republicans in Georgia had no power in the glory days of the 90’s so they view legislating as essentially a political cover band, faithfully playing the great hits of yesteryear since they aren’t themselves skilled songwriters.

  3. saltycracker says:

    The number of folks on PP using every subject to launch an attack on the opposite party, contributing nothing and demanding a place at someone else’s table is a waste.

    • TABOR is an idea that has never worked. I would hope you would attack a Democratic politician who introduced legislation to socialize Georgia’s economy or roll back welfare reform.

      • saltycracker says:

        I’m not screaming that TABOR would work if socialist Democrats wouldn’t spend every dime and debt on administration, waste and inefficiency. Hmmm….Neither party would recognize the idea of efficiency or debt and spending parameters.

        Perhaps Childi and Stefan could hold a class on how to get the left point across without blaming/spinning it all on Bush/the GOP. (well, enough of the time).

        • Bush has nothing to do with the failure of Colorado’s TABOR which was enacted in the 90’s and (functionally) abandoned during the 2000’s.

          I’m not screaming anything unless you think this fact: this is a stupid piece of legislation which has been proven not to work – is screaming.

          And I don’t know how you expect me to criticize a bad Republican idea without pointing out that it is in fact a bad idea that only Republicans propose. The same way I don’t know how you’d criticize something like living wage laws or GMO banning/labeling without pointing out those are Democratic laws.

  4. Will Durant says:

    Why would we want to allow this bunch of do-nothings to put limitations on another bunch down the road who might, by chance, be smarter? I know, I am an eternal optimist.

    • georgiahack says:

      We elect people to make decisions. They then make up rules that will not allow future generation to make their own decisions. Seems asinine to me.

    • Hey, you need to stop belittling this idea. It is clear you just hate George W. Bush and can’t get over it. Nevermind the merits of the proposal or its history.

  5. benevolus says:

    Well I guess if you believe Georgia is currently as great as it can be this would make sense.

    • Dave Bearse says:

      “…great as the state is enjoying today.”

      It’s not like Georgia’s unemployment rate has gone from more than a point less than the national average to more than a point more than the national average, or that per capita income has gone from the middle of the 50 states to 40th.

  6. George Chidi says:

    This is a tremendous acknowledgment of how vulnerable conservatives are in Georgia to some combination of demography and common sense ridding this state of a Republican supermajority.

    Georgia is by many measures dead flipping last in spending. Fundamental responsibilities of government — roads, schools, courts — are cracked if not completely broken because we refuse to fund them at levels an American might be accustomed to in high-falutin’ states like … Montana or Arizona.

    This bill is political cowardice in action. It says, in effect, that a supermajority today wants to be able to control spending with a minority vote tomorrow.

    Sadly, I think there’s a 50-50 chance it passes. But I really need Democrats to win a few more seats to keep the fringe from wielding the power of supermajority.

  7. Joseph says:

    At one point, the Governor mentioned using an n-year rolling average of revenue (it might have been as long as 15 years) which would in-essence set spending as well, in years where revenue exceeded the average, the excess would roll into rainy day fund, years where revenue was below average, we’d operate out of the Rainy day fund.

    Seems like a simple concept – is there a reason this wouldn’t work? Would take peaks and valleys out of spending.

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