Georgia lawmakers looking at tax hikes, spending cuts

State's social programs likely to face budget ax

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011 6:09 AM
Last updated 6:20 AM
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ATLANTA - The long-dreaded moment has arrived in which state government feels the full sting of the recent recession, and the impact on Georgians will be noticeable.

Tax collections have declined nearly 20 percent since the pre-recession peak, but government cuts during the slump haven't been deep enough to fully adjust. That's because the expenses keep growing, whether in student enrollment, medical inflation or pension claims.

Georgia, like other states, postponed some of the worst pain by taking advantage of federal stimulus money, reserves and the sale of various assets.

When the next fiscal year starts, the federal money will have expired, the asset sold and the reserves mostly tapped. The only options remaining are tax increases or additional cuts.

When Gov. Nathan Deal presented the General Assembly his recommendations, he opted to cut.

The assembly's appropriations committees begin meeting Tuesday to learn more about his plan and to decide what about it they will accept.

"I guess that part, when you start looking inside the numbers, is the 7 percent agency cuts," said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville. "Agencies have been cut on average 19 percent over two years.

"Seven percent cuts on top of those cuts: there'll be some faces on these cuts."

Many of those faces will be state employees who'll be furloughed or laid off. Deal said in his budget address Wednesday that his plan doesn't require any teacher furloughs, but that's only if local school districts have enough in reserves to make up for state spending reductions, said Senate Education Chairman Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody.

Deal's budget would continue "austerity cuts" to the student-funding formula the began in 2003.

"I don't think there's anyone who doesn't believe we can't find more savings out of our local school systems," Millar said. "... My company just laid off 15 people two weeks before Christmas. Would you rather have a furlough or lose your job?

"The legislature is tired of hearing [educators] talk about austerity cuts. That's just the world we live in today."

Some of those faces will be social workers, says Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia's Children, and Atlanta-based advocacy organization. Fewer social workers means those still on staff will have more cases and less time to fully investigate every suspected instance of child abuse or neglect, she said.

Some of the faces will be the 1.4 million poor who will no longer get dental, vision or podiatry coverage through Medicaid. It could be the faces of mothers and children with the discontinuation of the Babies Born Healthy Program.

Some cuts are small, such as the $10,000 saved by eliminating funding for the Civil War Commission, the $20,000 for the Aviation Hall of Fame or the $200,000 from the National Science Center. Other cuts are bigger, like the $1.6 million reduction in the Alzheimer Respite Services and the $5 million for closing two youth-detention centers.

Other faces on the cuts are people seeking assistance on their heating bills, a program that typically runs short of money. Rep. Stephanie Benfield, D-Atlanta, recently saw a line of applicants down the block.

"Ironically, many had to freeze in the cold for hours only to learn that there were no more funds for heating assistance," she said. "During these tough economic times, our state needs to focus primarily on those most in need. We should not be cutting heating assistance during frigid weather and essential health care services since these state programs help the poor and elderly."

For every Democrat in the assembly calling for tax increases to prevent further cuts, there are two Republicans refusing to add to the tax burden.

"When you've got unemployment right at 10 percent, I don't think that's a good time to tell Georgians we need more of their money," said House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Last year's consideration of the budget prompted demonstrations on multiple occasions. College students, for example, protested cuts to higher education that were merely outlined as one possible scenario. Even artists marched on the Capitol over cuts to arts funding.

Along with the actual cuts Deal is proposing are the programs with little or no money to accommodate growth in spending required by law, the so-called structural deficit, says David Soquist, director of the Fiscal Research Center at Georgia State University.

"We think there is about $1 billion shortfall," he said.

Instead of services cut, that deficit represents services that should be provided by law but haven't and won't be.

walter.jones@morris.com,

(404) 589-8424

Comments (27) Add comment
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NewHere
0
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NewHere 01/17/11 - 07:36 am
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We don't have to worry for

We don't have to worry for those democracts asking for tax increases because republicans have a super majority...o maybe what we have is some of those tax and spend republicants?

Goaliemom1987
7
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Goaliemom1987 01/17/11 - 08:02 am
0
0
Can't read much of the

Can't read much of the Chronicle online it seems they are going to start charging you $6.95/month to read the paper online.They do however give you an allowance of 25 FREE pages / month but when that is up they have an annoying popup that wants you to pay to continue! I think this is ridiculous I have been furloughed 4 days and I am losing money but everything else is going up. Way to go Chronicle kick us when were down!!!

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 01/17/11 - 08:21 am
0
0
workedforit
0
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workedforit 01/17/11 - 09:11 am
0
0
I would rather see cuts than
Unpublished

I would rather see cuts than tax increases. Cut all of the waste and there is plenty of that in any government run program and then see how short things really are. Between federal and state income tax and the increase in my health insurance thanks to the idiots with odumbacare, I bring home less than 60 percent of my checks. Let someone else pay a little more or do without something before you come reaching in my pockets again.

Riverman1
79592
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Riverman1 01/17/11 - 09:41 am
0
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Sometimes economic cycles, as

Sometimes economic cycles, as harsh as they can be, get us back to reality. We have to budget in ways that add up.

Our teachers and administrators are some of the highest paid in the country, especially if you factor in the cost of living. Some of our county BOE's, such as Columbia County, have huge reserve funds. Teacher retirement funds have been sacred until now while projections show the entire state budget will go to retirees in not too many years.

If you think N.J. Governor Christie is bad with his cuts, make me Georgia's governor and see what happens. If Georgia teachers wanted to cry about confiscation of the state's share of contributions to the retirement fund I'd speak even louder than Christie when he told the teacher who was whinning at the public meeting, "There is no money. What don't you understand?"

iLove
626
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iLove 01/17/11 - 10:03 am
0
0
"The legislature is tired of
Unpublished

"The legislature is tired of hearing [educators] talk about austerity cuts. That's just the world we live in today."

Some of those faces will be social workers, says Pat Willis, executive director of Voices for Georgia's Children, and Atlanta-based advocacy organization. Fewer social workers means those still on staff will have more cases and less time to fully investigate every suspected instance of child abuse or neglect, she said.

He sure does want to cut alot from the "children" of GA. . . . I wonder what type of affect on society this will have.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/17/11 - 10:05 am
0
0
"Our teachers and
Unpublished

"Our teachers and administrators are some of the highest paid in the country, especially if you factor in the cost of living."

proof?

Teachers spend alot of their own money in the classroom.

moor3277
0
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moor3277 01/17/11 - 10:08 am
0
0
I believe that reality is

I believe that reality is becoming clearer. People are screaming "Cut..Cut...Cut. Reality will show that after all of the cutting is done and everyone is suffering..we will still not have enough funds to operate. We will all have to pay taxes in order for us to not drift back to the 1930's. Nothing in life is free!!! We want services, but we don't want to pay one cent more in taxes. This anti-tax sentiment will make us a third class State and Country real soon.

Riverman1
79592
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Riverman1 01/17/11 - 10:11 am
0
0
Moor, the problem is that

Moor, the problem is that there are fewer people working for less income and raising taxes on them will hurt the economy making matters even worse. The only solution is to cut spending.

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 01/17/11 - 10:15 am
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0
Ga ranks 17th in average

Ga ranks 17th in average teacher pay according to the most recent data.

Riverman1
79592
Points
Riverman1 01/17/11 - 10:17 am
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Techfan, but if you factor in

Techfan, but if you factor in cost of living, it is much higher. It's been awhile since I saw the chart, but I believe it's near the top, certainly in the top 10.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/17/11 - 10:18 am
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0
#3.

#3.

Riverman1
79592
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Riverman1 01/17/11 - 10:19 am
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0
"#3"...Thanks, Techfan.

"#3"...Thanks, Techfan.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 01/17/11 - 10:19 am
0
0
Sorry, hit save button. Pay

Sorry, hit save button. Pay ranking is from US Census, "comfort level" is from independent source so not sure of accuracy.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/17/11 - 10:56 am
0
0
"For every Democrat in the

"For every Democrat in the assembly calling for tax increases to prevent further cuts, there are two Republicans refusing to add to the tax burden."

That pretty much sums it up. Liberals = Tax more. Conservatives = Reign in spending & entitlements.

About Darn Time.

follower
59
Points
follower 01/17/11 - 11:27 am
0
0
Goaliemom, I'm not itching

Goaliemom, I'm not itching for a debate or fight this morning, but why do you think you should get the Chronicle for free? Isn't the thought that everything should be provided without consideration for the provider the problem we have today?

If you are already a subscriber, it's only $2.95. If not, yes, it's $6.95. I will admit I don't like it, but understand that it cost to provide information and forums to posit your opinion.

There are still free sites, but for how long?

lylagirl
1
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lylagirl 01/17/11 - 11:30 am
0
0
My...my....my....Lord help us

My...my....my....Lord help us all....especially our children

ParentEducator
23
Points
ParentEducator 01/17/11 - 01:01 pm
0
0
Teachers have already taken

Teachers have already taken 2000-4000k paycuts for the past 2 years (furlough days), supplies are minimal or non existent, technology is way behind even surrounding counties. We need to consider cutting buses for those attending schools they are not zoned for here in Richmond Cty. It's honestly the only thing that hasn't been on the table and it would actually save a considerable amount of money and hopefully a few jobs. The pay cuts and increased classroom sizes really are starting to effect teacher's efforts in the classroom. I'm not sure where else people think the schools are wasting money. As for me, I'm grateful to have a job in this economy and am not complaining too loud about the cuts until I read posts like this. Please quit blaming and accusing teachers. Volunteer in a school, any school and you'll see.

noils
5
Points
noils 01/17/11 - 01:16 pm
0
0
Millionaires have it great!

Millionaires have it great! They don't have to worry about tax increases. The little conservative does it for them. If the little cons spent less time obsessing about other peoples taxes and more time working they may become wealthy some day themselves.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 01/17/11 - 01:38 pm
0
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Of all the cuts, the

Of all the cuts, the government should leave public services alone; we need our investigative social workers, police, firemen, and EMT's. Cut the teachers' pay--most don't earn it anyway.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 01/17/11 - 01:41 pm
0
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Thanks Techfan, I was
Unpublished

Thanks Techfan, I was actually wrong.

1. California $70,394
2. Massachusetts $65,897
3. New York $64,583
4. Virginia $59,585
5. Illinois $58,756
6. Texas $58,325
7. Pennsylvania $56,629
8. Georgia $56,227
9. Florida $53,789
10. Ohio $53,309

http://www.payscale.com/teacher-salaries-by-state

BUT i believe it will take about 10+ years for a first year teacher to reach this level without extra degrees.

iLove
626
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iLove 01/17/11 - 01:42 pm
0
0
mable: Please visit a school
Unpublished

mable: Please visit a school near you soon. Then comment.

iletuknow
7
Points
iletuknow 01/17/11 - 01:59 pm
0
0
Teachers have become well

Teachers have become well paid babysitters.I know the cuts will be here when I stop seeing high end food in shopping carts paid for by EBT cards.

Riverman1
79592
Points
Riverman1 01/17/11 - 02:29 pm
0
0
ParentEducator and iLove, I

ParentEducator and iLove, I don't WANT to see teacher pay cut, but the simple fact is there is no money. Matter of fact, there's not going to be enough to pay the retirement pay. You may believe the Ga State Teachers Retirement Fund is sound and untouchable, but that, too, will be on the table when ALL the money runs out. Contracts will be broken.

Look at the projections. The health care costs alone will be the entire state budget in about 15 years. That's not going to work. Wake up, folks. We have to cut everything now. Cut teacher retirement and pay while letting them keep their jobs. In this economy jobs are hard to come by.

irishfarmer
24
Points
irishfarmer 01/17/11 - 02:30 pm
0
0
The state of georgia needs to

The state of georgia needs to cut spending and cut taxes as well. doing one will not work time has prooven that. Yes there are some programs that we do not need to fund and those should end. We need to put more money back in the taxpayer/consumer so that the money can be spent wisely and put back into our economy. Very few people save money today some cant because again they dont make enough these folks are know as the working poor. The state of Georgia needs to cut spending and cut taxes as well period! This is not a republican or democrat thing but a good thing for georgia and just makes good government sense.

Dan at The Scott Daily Post
0
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Dan at The Scott Daily Post 01/17/11 - 02:32 pm
0
0
Teachers get paid a decent

Teachers get paid a decent salary when factoring in holidays and free summers but they aren't "highly paid" by any sense of the word. Especially considering all the babysitting they are forced to do because of "certain" parents. School administrators and those in the BOE are the ones who have the top salaries.

The state and federal government should get some consultants to start looking at how to increase efficiency and cost savings in all our government services.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/17/11 - 02:58 pm
0
0
Most people in the private

Most people in the private industry have suffered significant pay cuts or they have been laid off. Under-employment is rampant. It's time for govt workers to catch up with us and share some of the depression misery.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 01/17/11 - 02:58 pm
0
0
The Dept of Education has

The Dept of Education has tons of "fluff" that can be cut before even reaching the teacher level. For example. Why does the Dept of Transportation for a county with a population of only 100,000 people need their own personal secretary? Why are all of the school buildings "state of the art" including stacked stone? How much duplication of effort is occuring county by county? Why does a county of 100,000 people need a school nutritionist? How much fluff is there at the state level?

Dan at the Scott.... You have the right idea, hire a consultant. But we need to make sure that they have NEVER been in the education department - if so they'll have too many "pals" there to protect.

Dan at The Scott Daily Post
0
Points
Dan at The Scott Daily Post 01/17/11 - 04:58 pm
0
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Chillen - I agree. Minimal to

Chillen - I agree. Minimal to no connections is good. Maybe a private sector consultant from another state and a background check could help ensure that.

Hucklebuck
43
Points
Hucklebuck 01/17/11 - 09:16 pm
0
0
Cut cut cut is all that I am

Cut cut cut is all that I am hearing, but when that child molester moves in next door to your family and there is no one around to monitor him. What are you going to do then. Or how about your child's step parent is beating on him or her what are you going to do then. I will admit that there is alot of fat in the school system that needs to be addressed. Government services have established a certain standard of living/protection for citizens. Becareful for what you ask for because you may just get it.

They need to raise taxes. People are not ready for anything to be cut especially in a bad economy.

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