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Cuts alone unlikely to balance budget

Capitol update

POSTED: March 3, 2010 11:30 a.m.
The budget was the focal point and our top priority last week. Although the General Assembly was not in session, our time consisted of attending and giving input during the subcommittee meetings of the Appropriations Committee.
The week marked the end of the first two-week recess. Far from a recess or a break, much will be accomplished as we devote all of our time to the fiscal year 2011 budget. As we face one of the most difficult budget years in history, it is our responsibility as legislators to trim the budget and make the cuts necessary so the state can operate with a balanced budget.
We must all join together and understand that we are going to have to make sacrifices. The decisions the Georgia General Assembly is facing in relation to budgetary matters for the state is not an easy matter. Still waiting on incoming revenue figures, the estimate is that the state will potentially have a $1 billion budget shortfall for 2011. This will result in significant cuts to the budget; however, we will try to soften the cuts to the best of our ability.
Joint House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee meetings were held throughout the week to discuss the FY 2011 budget. The Joint Appropriations Subcommittee meetings held were on education, public safety, health, economic development, higher education, human resources and general government. The heads of each department presented their budgets to the subcommittees.
If there is any area possible that the state can save money within, any department or agency, the members of the General Assembly are going to find the savings. However, simply finding some savings will not be enough for what could possibly be a $1 billion shortfall for the state. The members of the General Assembly are looking for savings and for additional sources of revenue.
Families across our state are struggling to make ends meet and are experiencing this economic downturn just as the state is. We all must realize that cuts to the budget are the only solution to balancing the state’s budget. We are all going to have to give a little and the cuts will affect all of us.
Many constituents have called members of the General Assembly asking if we are also taking furloughs and the answer is, emphatically, yes. We have all agreed to voluntarily take furlough days. We are in this recession together and the members of the General Assembly will also do our part.
The practical solution is that the budget must be cut, slimmed down and allocated to those programs and services that are most needed.
Although the budget is our main priority, transportation and the funding for transportation continues to be a focus for the General Assembly and Gov. Perdue. New sources of revenue are on the minds of all legislators, especially with the revenue shortfalls.
The Governor’s Transportation plan, House Bill 1218, was heard for the first time in committee this week. This meeting on was only the first of many. HB 1218 would divide the state into 12 regions and the voters in each region would have the opportunity to approve or reject a one-cent sales tax for transportation projects in that region. Many questions were asked during and there are both proponents and opponents of the bill. The General Assembly will continue to study the issue and come up with a viable solution to our transportation needs.

Stephens, R-Pooler, represents are part of Liberty County. To contact him, call (404) 656-5099, or write: State Rep. Ron Stephens, 228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov
 

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