Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Senate Appropriations Chair Allocates time to local business leaders

The Georgia Senate’s Chief Budget Writer told area business leaders to prepare for another hardscrabble session under the Gold Dome in 2011.
State Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) told an audience at Georgia College & State University’s monthly Executive Forum that rising revenues may not be enough to subdue a double whammy of dwindling shortfall reserves and disappearing stimulus dollars in the state’s 2012 budget.
Reading notes from a presentation he delivered last week to incoming freshman in the General Assembly’s Upper Chamber, Hill said state budget writers will be faced with the same challenges as last session, but fewer options once the state deplete its revenue shortfall reserve and allocates its last federal stimulus dollar to pay the $17 billion it will take to run the State of Georg ia through Fiscal Year 2011.
“Our spending has gone down,” Hill said. “But not as much as our revenues have gone down.”
Despite US Census Bureau statistics that show Georgia’s population growing 20 percent over the last decade, Hill said legislators will struggle to fund state government at FY2005 levels at a time when the state employs 2.3 percent fewer people than it did in 2000.
Growth in local school systems, the Board of Regents, the Technical College System of Georgia and the state’s Medicaid obligations may exceed revenue growth, Hill said.
In light of that potential reality, Hill said Governor Perdue is asking state agencies to submit the same worst, worster and worstest budget scenarios this year as pessimists predict a possible $1.3 billion deficit in FY2012.
Hill advised the audience to think earnestly about the hard choices elected officials will have to make this coming year and help their legislators decide on paths that will help Georgia meet its long term goals.
The former Senate Higher Education Committee Chair talked about the one-sided view of lottery-funded HOPE scholarships for students attending public state universities and asked the audience to think twice before defunding what might possibly be one of the “best things the state has ever done.”
In keeping with the dire predictions Hill provided the audience, he made no grand promises for the legislature’s Tax Commission, which is tasked with re-imagining Georgia’s outdated tax code saying he was not sure legislators could muster the political fortitude to pass meaningful reform, such as reinstituting the state’s penny sales tax on groceries.
But on an upbeat, Hill had great things to say about state Senator Johnny Grant (R-Milledgeville). Grant, who was seated in the audience reacted to Hill’s platitudes by jokingly asking him if he would like the check now or later.

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