The work of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly continued last week, even though the House of Representatives and Senate officially were in recess.
The Legislature is constitutionally required to do one thing each session: balance the state’s budget. The process began with the governor’s budget recommendations, followed by the joint Senate and House appropriations-committee hearings. The joint budget hearings began Jan. 22 and wrapped up Jan. 24. During these hearings, the head of each state agency discussed the upcoming fiscal year and the impact of budget recommendations on the agency, the services provided and the people served by the agency.
The hearings traditionally begin with remarks from the governor. This year, Gov. Nathan Deal presented his recommendations to the joint session by highlighting his priorities in education, economic development, health care and public safety. The governor’s budget recommendations focus on investing in these areas in the amended fiscal year 2013 budget (which ends on June 30) and the FY2014 budget (big budget), which begins July 1. The expected growth of revenue for FY2013 was lower than projected, and state agencies will be required be reduce their budgets by an additional 3 percent for the remainder of FY2013 as well as for FY2014, with the exception of K-12 education.
Gov. Deal also discussed the AAA bond rating for Georgia, which the state has been able to maintain through “The Great Recession” by demonstrating exceptional fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars, ultimately resulting in additional savings for taxpayers. On another positive note, Georgia now has $378 million in the revenue-shortfall reserve, more commonly known as the rainy-day fund. Throughout this economic downturn in Georgia, these funds were used to fill shortfalls in various areas of the state budget to ensure that all state obligations have been met. With our economy slowly improving, the state has been able to start rebuilding this fund to ensure that Georgia is prepared for future challenges.
According to testimony by state fiscal economist Dr. Kenneth Heaghney, indicators point toward slow but steady growth during the next fiscal year, with jobs and the housing market steadily improving.
On Jan. 28, the General Assembly was scheduled to continue with day five of the 2013 session.
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