Georgia state agencies go to 'zero-based' budgets

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ATLANTA -- One of the changes resulting from the GOP sweep of statewide offices will come in some agencies’ budget requests.

Three agencies headed by newly elected Republicans are shifting to zero-based budgeting, a format that allows the governor and legislators to scrutinize every penny.

The normal format, continuation budgeting, only offers information on additions and subtractions. All other appropriations simply continue year after year.

At last weekend’s Georgia Republican Party convention, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black announced his agency would make the shift. Monday morning, Secretary of State Brian Kemp issued a release about his agency’s change -- and a page on its Web site with the numbers already posted.

“We launched the zero-based budgeting Web site because I believe we should be transparent with Georgians and the legislature, and show that we are being fiscally responsible stewards of their tax dollars,” Kemp said.

Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is also making the change.

The point is to uncover needless costs, and Kemp’s Web site puts a light on some expenditures that might cause some head scratching.

For instance, the Secretary of State’s Office spends $1,000 yearly on light bulbs, $3,300 on pest control and $800 on cotton blotters used to preserve historical documents at the State Archives. It spends $15,000 on satellite monitoring in its administrative/investigations division.

The Legislature passed a bill last year requiring all agencies to shift to zero-based budgeting. Then-Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed it as too cumbersome. The Senate overrode the veto this year, but the House wanted a new bill.

Even though Gov. Nathan Deal supports it, that bill this year never passed over disagreement about legislative budget staff.

Black said as the new Republican agency leaders campaigned together last fall, they agreed they would confer with one another, but they didn’t make a pact to see who could be the first to shift to a zero-based budget. He ordered the change, he said, because the agency he took charge of was already out of compliance with the budgeting format Perdue ordered four years ago.

“We were kind of catawampus, so the best way for us to start is to go ahead and do it,” Black said.

Having smaller agencies like Labor, Agriculture and the Secretary of State’s Office change formats won’t put a burden on the legislative committees reviewing the budgets, according to Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“However, as the larger agencies convert (if they do or are required to at some point) it will require us to probably increase our budget staff due to the shear amount of paperwork that will be created,” said England, R-Auburn. “It will also require more time of us, as leadership on the Appropriations Committee and the committee members to go through the information also.”

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Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 05/19/11 - 07:32 pm
Let's complement zero-based

Let's complement zero-based budgeting with regular performance, personnel and financial audits of each state agency to be conducted by competent, disinterested, out-of-state organizations and to be released by them directly to primary media outlets throughout Georgia.

corgimom 05/19/11 - 09:24 pm
Every building and business

Every building and business in the South has pest control- unless you can find people interested in working alongside rats and roaches, which are more prevalent in the South than kudzu, and that's pretty bad.

The hot, humid summers and mild winters, without ground freezing, makes pest control a necessity and not a luxury, for sanitation and health reasons.

$3,300 per year for a big building, for a licensed, professional pest control company is reasonable, especially in a place that has lots and lots of books.

Rats, mice, and silverfish, among other things, love to eat books and papers and nest in them.

Asitisinaug 05/20/11 - 01:36 am
Excellent Start by our

Excellent Start by our leaders in state government.

Craig Spinks, excellent points as well that need to be followed up on.

One of the worst things in government budgets is when you get a letter in June stating something such as....You have XXX amount of money in your area/division budget that has not been spent as of this year. This money will need to be spent by July 1 (even if you don't need to) or you will be subjected to a reduced budget next year. Totally ridiculous.

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