Following the presentation of budget proposals by Gov. Nathan Deal for the remainder of this fiscal year and for fiscal year 2013, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee held joint budget hearings this week at the State Capitol.
On the local level, I will continue to seek funding for furnishing the new Department of Family and Children Services building in Liberty County. I want to thank Rep. Ron Stephens, Sen. Buddy Carter and Sen. Tommie Williams for their work on securing this funding, which will meet a major need as construction nears completion.
Budget Hearings: University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, speaking at a joint budget hearing, said this week that continuing increases in tuition and fees have caused as many as 700 students to drop out of classes at some of the state’s larger campuses. The chancellor told lawmakers the University System would begin to slow down the pace of these increases. In his budget presentation, he noted the Board of Regents has approved several tuition increases in recent years to compensate in part for major reductions in the funding budgeted by the legislature for higher education. He said the University System has seen its budget reduced by about $1 billion over four years. To save money, the regents recently approved a recommendation to consolidate eight of the state’s public colleges into four institutions.
Meanwhile, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner Ron Jackson told budget writers that a number of under-used technical campuses will likely be closed to achieve a 2 percent cut ordered of all agencies by Deal. The budget meetings concluded Thursday, with committee members having heard presentations from the heads of more than 20 state agencies and departments.
Deal has presented an amended budget proposal for the remainder this fiscal year totaling $18.5 billion, and an annual budget for fiscal year 2013 totaling $19.2 billion.
School funding concerns: Public education advocates have expressed concerns about the governor’s budget plan as it relates to K-12 school funding, particularly a claim that the new budget “includes no reductions to QBE, Equalization Grants, State Schools or other enrollment driven programs.” According to Joe Martin, executive director of the Georgia School Funding Association, “This statement would be true if the word ‘further’ was inserted before the word ‘reductions,’ but without any clarification, it creates an impression that is very misleading. It would be far more accurate to say that a formula which has not been updated for years will still be cut by more than $1 billion. The combined effect of an unrealistic formula and huge austerity reductions comes to about $30,000 a year for a typical class in Georgia...”
Revenues decline: Georgia’s revenue collections in December totaled $1.54 billion, a decline of 1.2 percent from the same month a year ago. It was the first month for reduced revenues in a year and a half. Much of the decline came in the categories of corporate income taxes, which were down by $26 million or 17.3 percent. For the first six months of fiscal year 2012, state revenues are up by 5.2 percent over last year.
MLK holiday observance: Congratulations to the Rev. Alvin Jackson and other organizers of Liberty County’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday celebration. Under their leadership, ours has become one of the most recognized programs in Georgia.
Williams, D-Midway, represents District 165 in the Georgia House. Contact him at 404-656-6372 or by email at email@example.com.