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ASK THE EXPERTS

Support new governor and ‘zero-based’ budgeting

POSTED: February 9, 2011 2:33 p.m.

The senate recently voted to override former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s veto of SB 1, a zero-based budget bill from the 2010 Legislative Session.

 

The house and senate passed the bill last year, but Perdue vetoed it. Then, this year, the senate chose to override that veto. 

 

If the house were to join the senate and support this veto override and allow 2010’s SB 1 to become law, it is the house’s position that our new governor would be in immediate violation of that law.

 

This is because SB 1 applies to the budgets that Gov. Nathan Deal submitted to the house just a few weeks ago. Rather than fighting yesterday’s battles with the former governor, we should work on today’s solutions in cooperation with the new governor, who supports the principles of zero-based budgeting. 

 

Georgia currently uses a continuation budgeting method, which requires state agencies to specifically detail new spending only. Zero-based budgeting would change this process by requiring one-quarter of state agencies to itemize their entire budget on a four-year rotation.

 

As a result, the entire state budget would be analyzed every four years, allowing state legislators to scrutinize every dollar of taxpayer money and ensure its proper and efficient use. 

 

This is the gist of HB 33, a new zero-based budget bill introduced by Rep. Stephen Allison (Blairsville). I believe it is important that we give this new bill an opportunity to work through the legislative process.

 

Last Thursday marked the 10th legislative day of the Georgia General Assembly’s 2011 Legislative Session.

 

That means we are now a quarter of the way through the annual 40-day legislative session. While most of those 10 days have been filled with constitutionally required technical procedures, they have also provided necessary time for the workings of the committee process. 

 

This was especially true as the house appropriations subcommittees delved further into the governor’s proposed FY 2011 Amended Budget.

 

As a member of the House Appropriations K-12 Education Subcommittee, I looked closely at every line item of the education portion of the budget.

 

I know and understand why the governor has recommended certain cuts, but I do not agree with all of them, and this poses the problem. If we add money to save a program, it has to come from some place else — a “zero-sum” game that we have to play because the budget must be balanced.

 

The FY 2011 Amended Budget will be passed from the house to the senate on Feb. 10, and on Monday we will start scrutinizing the FY 2012 budget. That is where we really have to tighten our belts.

 

Over the last 10 years, our state population grew by 18.3 percent, but in just the past two fiscal years we have been forced to cut our state budget by nearly $4 billion.

 

These cuts were targeted in a way that balanced the state budget while protecting core services. Now our budget requires further cuts to fill a $1 billion hole left by expiring federal stimulus funds. 

 

On a local note, last Thursday was North Georgia College & State University day at the capitol with students, faculty and members of the foundation visiting the house and senate.

 

The Lady Saints softball team was recognized for its great season, winning every game until they lost in the nationals.

 

The Cadet Corps was recognized for again winning the MacArthur Award as the best ROTC unit in the country. 

 

A major high point of the day was a visit with Governor and Mrs. Deal by President David Potter, foundation members and several of us legislators. Then we all joined the students and faculty for pictures with the governor.

 

My Saturday morning breakfast with constituents continues on Feb. 12 and 19 at 8 a.m. at the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Dahlonega. On Feb. 26 we will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Ryan’s restaurant in Dawson County.

 

 

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capital Avenue, Atlanta, Ga. 30334; phone (404) 657-7857; fax (404) 463-3044; e-mail amos.amerson@house.ga.gov.  Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.

 

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