Monday, February 22, 2010

Buzz From the Capitol: Supplemental Budget Edition

The following is a newsletter distributed by state Senator Johnny Grant, R-Milledgeville, and the Senate Press Office:

As the General Assembly reached the midpoint this week, the Senate took a major step forward and passed the amended FY 10 budget. It will now sit in a conference committee so that we can reconcile our differences with the House. While I know there is much work left to do with FY 11 budget, I m proud of what we have accomplished so far.

It would be nearly impossible to find a Georgian who has not felt the effects of the current financial crisis. January brought additional sobering revenue news, making it more difficult for the Senate to produce a balanced budget. (Note: The sobering news is that January revenues were down 8.7 percent from January 2009 figures. With January numbers recorded, Georgia's revenue collections have been sliding for 14 straight months. This is especially troubling because Governor Sonny Perdue's recommended 2011 budget was written on the expectation of four percent revenue growth.)

The Appropriations Committee diligently went through the House version of the FY 10 amended budget and changed very little. However, one of the significant changes we made was regarding the Quality Basic Education formula. It was increased by $92.8 million to account for K-12 enrollment growth. This is partly offset by the $203 million saved by teacher’s furlough days.

During budget negotiations, I worked closely with the Department of Corrections, ensuring Middle Georgia receives fair consideration in the planning process. We worked collectively to address the pressures placed on county jail programs by closures of state prisons. I helped secure $9.8 million to assist with jail backlogs across the state, and particularly in our area.

Working alongside the Department of Behavioral Health, I combed through the extra $20.3 million allotted for mental health in Georgia. We continue to work and ensure every penny is spent for improved patient care. The largest portion of the increase in funding will be spent on hiring personnel to improve provider to client ratios. Mental health is a very integral part of our district, so we must be vigilant in our efforts to maintain and improve Central State Hospital and our other mental health facilities.

Apart from the budget, Baldwin County has been a big focus of attention. News broke recently that a new prison facility is likely to be constructed in south Baldwin County. Upon the final approval processes, construction will begin and the prison is planning to open as early as 2011. More than 200 jobs will be created as a result of this new prison and it will hopefully ease the pain of the Scott and River’s state prisons closing earlier this year.

It is exciting that in the face of major budget cuts within the Department of Corrections and throughout the state, we will get a new facility that better suits the needs of correctional officers and inmates. It will host 1,000 beds but that could become 2,500 beds in the future, meaning an additional increase in jobs as well.

As always, it continues to be an honor to serve in the General Assembly on the behalf of my constituents throughout the 25th district. I look forward to the remaining days in session and I vow to work tirelessly ensuring all legislation that comes across my desk works for you and all Georgians.

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This is the second One Capital Removed edition of state Senator Johnny Grant's semi regular newsletter. I'm posting this now, while waiting to get back in touch with Grant to ask him questions about said AFY2010 budget. Check out The Union-Recorder's print edition to find out how that conversation goes.

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