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Oil prices, state budget on the agenda for lawmakers

POSTED: August 10, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Just a few weeks ago, President Bush issued an executive order to lift prohibition on oil exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf.  With the action, the executive branch’s restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away.  

 

This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these oil resources is action from our U.S. Congress.

 

Every American who drives to work, takes a summer vacation or runs a business is feeling the squeeze of high prices at the gas pump. 

 

To reverse this trend, we must continue to implement good conservation policies and increase the supply of oil, especially here at home. 

 

Members of the Georgia Congressional delegation and Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have stated that one of the most important steps we can take to expand American oil production is to increase access to offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.  

 

In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey recently announced the Arctic Circle has an estimated 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil.

 

In a recent statement, Gov. Sonny Perdue concurred:  “It is imperative that we take a balanced approach of conserving, developing alternative energy technologies and increasing the supply of domestically produced resources.  With record gas prices straining the budgets of many Georgia families, we cannot afford to take any option off the table.”

 

 Our country needs a comprehensive energy policy that can meet the growing energy needs of this nation.  An energy policy of less taxation, less regulation, increasing supply and lessening demand on oil supply is the only way to bring prices down. 

 

This comprehensive plan should include drilling for more supply.  The General Assembly cannot approve efforts to build new oil refineries or to explore new options for oil and natural gas, such as making the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) accessible.  This must be done by Congress.

 

I urge every citizen to call their Congressman and demand that Congress vote to allow drilling in order to increase domestic access to oil.  In addition, go online and sign the “Drill Now” petition on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s site at www.newt.org. 

 

Please look for my future columns to address ongoing concerns with energy in Georgia and throughout the nation.

 

State budget news

 

Evidence of the nation’s economic problems could be seen in the Fiscal Year 2008 state revenues, which were recently released. Revenues fell into negative territory for the first time in five years, as the June figures closed out the fiscal year. 

 

While it recently became apparent that the state would not make the revenue growth estimate and that dipping into the reserves would be necessary, the June revenues were a negative $168 million in what was expected by many to be a positive revenue month. 

 

Thus, Georgia will be forced to draw down reserves of $590 million out of the $1.5 billion total to balance the books for FY ‘08.

 

 There are some positive things about this news:

 

• Unlike the federal government,  Georgia must balance its books yearly and cannot just spend or print money  it doesn’t have.  So, the state faces its problems head on and will  take the action necessary to balance its budget.

 

• Due to the foresight of Gov.  Perdue and legislative leadership, Georgia has a robust revenue shortfall  reserve and the $590 million will not present a problem.

FY 2008 total revenues showed a drop of -$189,975 over 2007.  If the Governor’s revenue estimate had been met, total revenues would have shown an increase of $703,147,357.  And this was after a $245 million reduction in the revenue estimate during the 2008 Session. 

 

In all, FY ’09 has begun with the state in an unenviable position.  If the 2009 budget were written today, there would be no new funds appropriated and the budget would be flat. 

 

One thing is clear, we will have some difficult decisions over the next 12 months without an upturn in the economy.  But because of the fiscal stewardship of state leaders, Georgia is in a much better position than other states, and ready to bounce back when the time is right.

 

As always, please contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area.

 

Please feel free to contact Sen. Chip Pearson at his office in Atlanta at (404) 656-9221 or by e-mail at chip.pearson@senate.ga.gov.

 

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