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Georgians need to speak up before 2011 budget passes

POSTED: March 10, 2010 4:00 a.m.

Passing a responsible, balanced state budget that meets the needs of all Georgians is the House’s greatest responsibility and number one priority. 

  

Crafting a state budget is not a simple, overnight task. Setting spending for the state for the year requires extensive work and months of review of every state agency’s budget. 

  

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees spent the past two weeks working together in a joint effort to review every aspect of state spending. We met face-to-face with state agencies and departments to find ways to cut spending even further for the upcoming 2011 budget. 

  

All of us in the General Assembly recognize the stress and strain that this process is placing on those who are affected by the budget cuts: workers, spouses, students, faculty, supervisors, and of course, the children. We wish it could be otherwise, and we ask for your prayers that we might do what is best for the people of Georgia. 

  

While the budget is not yet ready for a vote, we are making progress. So far, I have received hundreds of e-mails from teachers, students, retirees, garden club members and extension agents. Your input on the 2011 budget is very important to me. My vote will be based on your recommendations.

  

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia ranks 48th in state spending per person, which means Georgia state government is one of the leanest in the country.

  

The State Accounting Office has already cut their budget by 29 percent from Fiscal Year 2009 through Fiscal Year 2010. Finding additional savings in state agency budgets will require careful work, but I am confident we will pass a responsible, balanced state budget that meets our state’s needs.

In addition to budget hearings, I also reviewed key pieces of legislation that were recently introduced in the House. Under current law, Georgians can only purchase health insurance products that are sold within the state.

  

HB 1184 seeks to change that practice by allowing Georgians to purchase health insurance policies across state lines. This policy shift would provide Georgia families with more access to a variety of insurance products that are more affordable, resulting in significant savings for you and your family.

  

HB 1218, the “Transportation Investment Act of 2010,” would create 12 transportation tax districts based on the 12 Regional Commissions that are already in place throughout the state.

  

As the legislation currently stands, voters within each region would be given the opportunity to approve a proposed transportation project list and a 1 percent additional sales tax to fund the included projects in a 2012 referendum.

  

The bill would also suspend the 50/50 restriction on MARTA’s expenditures for three years.

  

If passed and approved by Georgia voters, this legislation would provide the funds necessary to maintain and improve Georgia’s transportation infrastructure system.

  

While we work to find new ways to fund improvements to our transportation system, it is important to hold the Georgia Department of Transportation board members who oversee transportation funding accountable.

  

This accountability will be further enhanced by two pieces of legislation introduced just before the recess.

  

House Resolution 1446 requires a constitutional amendment to shorten the terms of GDOT board members from five years to two years, thus making them more responsive to the General Assembly.

  

HB 1242 would bring the GDOT board under the same ethics requirements as the Georgia General Assembly.

  

These initiatives will provide greater oversight and make for a more responsible transportation agency.

  

The 2010 General Assembly has met for 20 days.

  

That means we are halfway through this session with many bills remaining to be reviewed. The next 10 days will get longer and longer as we work toward day 30, crossover day.  Crossover day is the last day a House bill will be considered by the House and a Senate Bill considered by the Senate. Days 31 through 40 are dedicated to reviewing bills from the other house.

  

The best way to let me know your concerns or suggestions before we vote on a bill is face-to-face.

  

I will be at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega for Saturday morning breakfast with constituents at 8 a.m. on March 13, 20 and 27.

  

As we get deeper into the session, I will let you know the rest of the Saturday breakfast schedule.

  

As I continue to review legislation and work with my colleagues on the state budget, I want to know the issues that are important to you and your family, before I vote. 

  

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail amos.amerson@house.ga.gov. Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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