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Governor starts the 2012 Budget process
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Last week was budget week at the Capitol. The Appropriations Com-mittees of both the Senate and House held joint hearings from the governor and his department heads.

Gov. Nathan Deal has set the "revenue estimate" for FY 2013 at $19.2 billion.

Georgia's Constitution requires the House of Representatives to formulate a budget within the revenue parameters set by the governor. We can budget to spend less than the estimate, but we can't spend more. We have a balanced budget requirement, and by law only the governor can estimate the revenue.

In his speech to the joint committees, Deal was optimistic, but conservative.

There was a dip in December that broke a string of 18 consecutive months with year-over-year revenue growth.

However, Georgia remains one of only eight states with a Triple-A bond rating by all three rating agencies. This means that we pay a lot less interest on bonds than do our neighbors with AA ratings - a savings of $11million over the life of the bonds sold last year.

The FY 2013 Proposed Budget is about $600 million more than the FY 2012 budget to cover the growth in K-12 and higher education, growth in Medicaid and additional prison beds.

This money also includes contributions to the state health benefit plans and retirement systems. The governor proposes to fund additional residency slots for physicians, accountability courts and additional school nurses.

Let's put this budget into proper context.

When adjusted for inflation, per-capita spending recommended for FY 2013 is more than 20 percent less than it was in FY 2002.

The state workforce is almost 8 percent less than in 2001, while the state population has grown by 1.5 million people.

We are providing more services with fewer resour-ces. The governor continues to reduce the size of government and has required most agencies to reduce their budgets by another 2 percent.

As a member of the House Pre-K through 12 Education subcommittee of Appropriations, there were some items of particular interest.

The Pre-K school year will be increased by 10 days and funded for 8,400 slots.

Georgia's Pre-K program is one of the largest and most comprehensive Pre-K programs in the nation. It continues to be a model for other states.

Children four years of age on Sept. 1 of the current school year, and whose parents are Georgia residents are eligible to attend Georgia's Pre-K program.

In the K-12 area, there are almost 2,300 schools funded by a partnership between the state and local school systems that provides more than $8 billion in funding for education.

Most of this funding is distributed via the Quality Basic Education formula.

This year the governor proposes to transfer funds for nutrition, pupil transportation and school nurses into the QBE program.

The governor has also provided for differentiated pay for newly certified math and science teachers.

Unfortunately, he has reduced funds to Regional Education Service Agencies and Educational Technology Centers.

One of the most interesting presentations was by the Department of Community Health. DCH manages two large health plans (Medicaid/PeachCare and the State Health Benefit Plan). These plans cover the healthcare needs of one-in-four Georgians.

I learned some interesting facts about DCH. They pay out $31.6 million for Medicaid and PeachCare benefits per day and process more than 176,000 claims per day for these benefits. Medicaid and PeachCare cover 1.7 million Georgians, of which 63 percent are children.

Fifty nine percent of all births in Georgia are paid for by Medicaid. Of the 1.7 million covered by Medicaid/PeachCare, 1.2 million (70 percent) are managed by DCH.

In FY 2013 DCH will consume $2.7 billion of state funds (14 percent of the budget) and $5.6 billion in federal funds.

When asked about future budgets under "ObamaCare," the commissioner stated that by 2020, Georgia would add 700,000 to Medicaid at a cost of an additional $2.5 billion in state funds. Please remember that this is your tax money.

Whether it represents taxes to Georgia or to the IRS, it is still money out of your pocket.

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; phone (404) 657-8534; e-mail