Georgia Budget 101
It’s time we reduced the federal budget and left the family budget alone. ~ Ronald Reagan
We are not directly affecting the federal budget but we are working on leaving the budgets of Georgians alone.
Budget talks have consumed the nation’s conversations and Georgia is no different. As Georgia’s 2010 Legislative Session begins each Representative and Senator has 40 working days to ensure the legislation passed is best for the state of Georgia while remaining fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ funds.
As you can imagine, the hot topic at the Capitol is the budget. Unlike the Congress in DC, the Georgia Legislature is constitutionally bound to balance Georgia’s budget. In a nutshell, this means that we as your representatives and senators cannot spend more than we receive. If only DC understood this concept!
Where is the money coming from?
Similar to DC, Georgia gets over 85% of its revenues from taxes (http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-1353). The majority of that is from the individual income tax (40-45%), Sales/Use tax (30%), Excise taxes on gas, cigarettes and alcohol (7%) and the corporate income tax (3-5%). The remaining sources of tax revenue are from the property tax, insurance premium tax and the estate tax. Non-tax revenues come from the Georgia Lottery, Tobacco Company Settlements and funds from hospitals for indigent care. These non-tax revenues are allocated for specific programs.
How do government agencies get the money?
By September 1 of each year, government agencies request these funds. The Georgia Office of Planning & Budget (OPB) analyzes the requests against existing and forecasted revenue resources (e.g., taxes). Within five days of the start of the Legislative session, the Governor delivers the budget report to the General Assembly. The Assembly reviews the budget as agencies justify the funding needs. The House of Representatives makes their changes, approves the budget then sends it to the Senate. The Senate makes their changes then send it back to the House for acceptance or rejection. For discrepancies between the House and Senate versions, a Conference Committee (composed of Senators & Representatives) works to create a compromise version of the budget. The compromised version is then voted on by the House and the Senate. The Governor then has 40 days to sign off on the new budget. If he does not, the budget (bill) automatically becomes law. Often there is an amendment to the budget to account for unforeseen circumstances.
This year, the state must find ways to cut over $1 billion out of the state’s budget. There is not one specific area that is being targeted for budget cuts and this is the prime opportunity for the Legislature to evaluate the government’s involvement in many activities.
The next steps for the Legislature are to question the various agencies’ spending requests. This will happen on Tuesday, January 19th from 1pm-5:30pm and Wednesday, January 20th from 9am-4:30pm. These dates and/or times are subject to change so please check the Georgia General Assembly’s website (http://www.legis.ga.gov/) for the most current information. You are certainly welcome to attend these proceedings.
Next week, we will look into some of the recommendations for spending cuts and revenue generation.