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Conducting a review of Georgias budget
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The Senate reconvened for week two after taking a long weekend to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Every year, the Georgia General Assembly comes together to review and approve a budget for the state. Passing a balanced budget is a requirement set forth by the state constitution, so this means we must come to a consensus before the end of session-otherwise, the end of session will never come. It is a priority for both the House and Senate to set a reasonable, fiscally responsible budget that provides for our great state and its people.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I spent the week with other legislators closely reviewing Gov. Nathan Deal's budget recommendations for both the Fiscal Year 2017 general budget and the Fiscal Year 2016 amended budget.

This in-depth look at the budget allowed us to break down the big numbers and look more thoroughly for where funds should be distributed during the year. The review process included presentations from state agencies that provided us with information about their most pressing funding needs.

This testimony is needed in order for the Georgia General Assembly to create a well-established, detailed budget that is agreed upon by both legislative chambers.

Within the Appropriations Committee, I serve as the chair of the transportation and as a member of the higher education subcommittees.

Throughout the week, I worked with my fellow subcommittee members to carefully review these two specific areas of the budget. I take this role very seriously and know that my voice within these subcommittees can be my biggest contribution to the completed budget. I am able to speak openly, add meaningful input and speak out against line items that does not support or benefit the important needs of District 51.

The discussion will continue until a full budget plan is agreed upon in both the House and Senate chambers-this is sometimes a process that can last into the final weeks of the legislative session. Although the process can be tiring, I will work diligently to ensure the most fiscally responsible course of action for our state.

I'd like to invite students ages 12 - 18 to apply for the Senate Page Program. This unique program offers a first-hand look at the legislative process at the Georgia State Capitol. Senate Pages serve the Senators by delivering important information and other messages to the Senate Chamber throughout the legislative day. If you would like more information on becoming a Senate page, please contact my office and we will be glad to help you.

In the coming weeks, we will start closely reviewing and moving bills through the legislative process in the Senate. Your feedback on these bills is integral to my work on your behalf, so please continue reaching out to personally discuss legislation with me. I take every phone call, email or office visit into consideration when casting my vote in the Senate chamber. Please do not hesitate to call or email me at any time. I am in office to serve you.

Sen. Steve Gooch serves as Majority Whip of the Senate Majority Caucus. He represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via email at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.