The 2010 Session has ended with the passage of about 250 bills that are now under consideration by Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Though productive, this was not an easy legislative session. It was filled with many difficult decisions, especially when it came time to pass the state budget.
The governor has until June 8 to sign or veto theses bills.
I have received many calls asking for more details about the FY 2011 budget.
As reported earlier, the new budget will be almost $4 billion less than the original FY 2009 budget.
This equates to a 20 percent cut over the past two years, from $19.1 billion to $15.3 billion.
The state has eliminated more than 7,000 positions from the payroll during the past 16 months.
The FY 2011 budget eliminates another 4,650 positions.
Many other positions remain on the books, but are vacant and unfunded.
As of the end of April, the year-to-date revenue report shows individual income down 12.3 percent and sales tax down 11 percent.
Despite claims to the contrary, the state has no pocket of waste to close this huge deficit.
For every dollar in the FY 2011 budget:
• 58 cents goes to education;
• 19 cents goes to health care (77 cents of the dollar in just these two areas);
• 9 cents goes to public safety;
• 4 cents goes to transportation;
• The remaining 10 cents covers the bond-service debt, natural resources, economic development and all the remaining government services.
Despite the 6 percent reduction to the Department of Education, we have continued to prioritize K-12 education funding.
The FY 2011 budget restored $100 million for QBE, and the K-12 portion of the budget grew from 43 percent in 2009 to 45 percent in 2011.
In comparison, many other agencies had their budgets cut from 8 percent to being totally eliminated.
A few weeks ago when Gov. Perdue revised the revenue estimate, the media was widely quoted as saying that higher education would be cut by $300 million.
The actual reductions in the final version of the FY 2011 budget amounted to $22 million.
The formula funding for public libraries has been restored in direct response to the increasing use of their resources, particularly by citizens using the Internet looking for jobs.
Lumpkin County’s new library funding was postponed because the SPLOST has not generated the funds for a county match.
When the county money is available, the state will match with $2 million for a new library.
Health Care is the fastest growing portion of the budget. Medicaid and PeachCare are fully funded, and there were no cuts to providers. In fact, there is a rate increase of 12 percent for inpatient and outpatient hospital services.
Unlike Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina, and a handful of other states, we are not utilizing early release strategies to balance our public safety budget.
We refuse to make the streets more dangerous by releasing known criminals.
This budget added 2,500 prison beds.
It is noteworthy that we are not cost-shifting public safety to local governments by increasing jail backlog. The FY 2011 budget added $2 million to the County Jail Subsidies.
Finally, the FY 2011 Budget contains no statewide furloughs. However, Legislators and some Department heads have agreed to be docked one day’s pay per month.
You may remember that in 2001, I introduced legislation to eliminate the state’s quarter mil property tax.
A version of that legislation was included in HB 1055, and if the governor allows it to become law, the state will be out of the property tax business after a five year phase-out. This saves each homeowner between $15 and $20 on their tax bill. Every little bit helps.
Also included in HB 1055 was the Senior Income Tax Cut.
By 2016, tax on retirement income for those 65 and older will be eliminated.
Earned income will continue to be taxed as it is today.
After June 8 when the governor has acted on all pending legislation, I’ll be able to give a final report on several more bills including some local legislation that many of you have been asking about.
Keep in touch.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; (706) 864-6589; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.