In April of 2010, the General Assembly passed the original budget for Georgia’s Fiscal Year 2011. This budget totaled $17.8 billion and directs all state spending from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. Each month of the current fiscal year has experienced slow and steady revenue growth; January marked the eighth straight month of economic growth in Georgia. Georgia’s economy has stabilized and is currently increasing; as a result, more than $163 million has been added to the FY 2011 state budget, bringing the total budget to over $18 billion.
The minimal growth in the economy has led to an average of four percent budget cuts totaling over $300 million; these budget cuts affect all state agencies and departments, except for education. The children of Georgia are the Top Priority of the General Assembly. The supplemental budget, which the House recently approved, is done each year to adjust the overall budget based on the economic condition of the state at the current time. Because of a slight increase in revenue, there has been $152 million increase in educational funding which includes $83 million for increased K-12 enrollments, $31 million for HOPE, and $12 million to pay newly certified math and science teachers. The additional funding also includes $149 million for Medicaid, $13 million for community-based health services, and $10 million for economic development. This revised version of the budget must now go to the state Senate to be considered and passed.
On a more personal level, this week the House met on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The House has been meeting on average three to four times a week; the reason for this is because of the budget cuts, which affect everyone. Even though there is a slight increase in revenue it does not come close to matching built in costs such as increases in medical expenses including Medicare, Medicaid, insurance for state employees, and many other obligations that have been brought on by increases in inflation. The Federal stimulus money has run out and there appears to be other no choice but to make cuts or find additional sources of revenue. I serve on the Appropriations Committee and the Economic Development sub-Committee. This is going to be one the toughest years ever for the General Assembly because of the budget. This session is going to be particularly difficult because of the large amount of programs and agencies that many people depend on and the four percent cuts that must be made. This session proves to be very complicated and it just may be the toughest year the General Assembly has ever faced.
Pastor Wilbur T. Purvis III spoke to the full House during the morning devotion and quoted G. K. Chesterson. He stated, “Hope is faith standing on its tiptoes and the sun will shine over this great state of Georgia and our nation again.”
My office is located in the Capitol building in room 131, which is located on the first floor. This is YOUR office, so please come by for a visit; my staff and I would be thrilled to meet you and show you around YOUR Capitol.
To contact Tommy Smith, please call 1-404-656-5105 or 912-614-2077.