Andrew Allison, Acting Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Budget Week Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
After four days of session last week, the Senate and the House of Representatives Appropriations Committees convened jointly this week to conduct a three-day span of hearings, commonly referred to as “Budget Week.” During this process, I remain most aware that it is not “the state’s money” we appropriate, it’s your money! And I’m honored for your trust in these decisions. The goal is always to fulfill our constitutional obligation of ensuring a balanced budget, while meeting the needs of a growing state. This year, the difficultly is increased due to revenues falling well below projections and some large ticket items proposed to meet Governor Kemp’s 2018 campaign promises.
When we conduct our budget review, we actually review two budgets at once. This is possible because the state operates its budget year on a July 1st to June 30th calendar. Basically, we pretend July 1st is the first date of the new year for budgeting purposes. When the legislative session convenes in January, we are reviewing and “truing up” the budget for the current year (commonly called the “amended budget”), as well as preparing the budget for the fiscal year that will begin the next July 1st. We are currently in the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020). The talk you’re hearing right now is about amending the FY 2020 budget and proposing the 2021 budget that will begin July 1, 2020 (FY 2021). It’s a little convoluted and confusing, but having that primer helps make sense of some of our budget process.
Looking at the state as a whole and the achievements of our agencies, Georgia has had some monumental successes. We continue to rank nationally in business and employment, and we have spearheaded a number of innovative programs designed to tackle some of our state’s most complex issues. Despite this, our revenue growth has slowed down. The FY 2020 Budget, the amended budget, is full of many cuts to various agencies, reflecting the fact that revenues are not meeting expectations. In other words, we’re not taking in as much tax money as the state thought we would last January, so we’re having to cut spending so the budget balances. Many of the proposed cuts to FY 2020 Budget are measures proposed by the legislature, including funding for broadband mapping which we proposed last year. The legislature will look for areas to restore our priorities and the priorities of our constituents, but the overall decrease of revenue will mean some things the state government has done in the past won’t be continued in the same manner. And that’s not always a bad thing- we rarely spend less or innovate entire departments in government. Tight budget times force us to look at that.
The Governor’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal actually predicts tax revenues to grow. While I’m personally skeptical of the predicted growth rate, I’m hopeful the economists are right. The FY 2021 Budget proposal dedicates roughly 55% of its revenue to education, $15.4 billion. It dedicates another 23% to healthcare- Medicaid, mental health, etc. While there are many lines to his total proposal, the Governor’s FY 2021 Budget Proposal can be summarized pretty simply- cuts are made to almost every agency to create budget room for several of the Governor’s campaign promises and priorities. Additions are made to fulfill the Governor’s campaign promise of providing the remainder of a $5,000 annual raise to teachers ($3,000 of this was paid last year) and to fight street gangs. Here are some more of the specific line items from the proposed budgets:
- Over $2 million to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to expand the Gang Task Force and create seven new positions
- $362 million to increase teacher salaries by $2,000
- $81 million to the University and Technical College Systems to fund enrollment growth
- $56 million to fund lotteries used for HOPE scholarships and grants
- $51 million to the Department of Transportation for roads, $50 million to repair and replace bridges and $1.8 million for motor carrier officers
- $90 million to cover the rising cost of Medicaid programs
- $80,000 to help improve election security
- $40 million to give full-time, regular state employees earning less than $40,000 a $1,000 salary increase
- $4.25 million to renovate and replace firefighting equipment
This budget conversation will continue. We will re-start where we left off in the legislative session next week with five legislative days. We’ve got a lot to do and some very important bills are going to start seeing some movement soon. If you ever have any questions about legislation, or even the budget, please reach out to my office either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 404-656-0089. I am here because of you.
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Sen. Blake Tillery serves as a Governor’s Administration Floor Leader. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.