A leader in Georgia’s Senate said the budget will dominate the upcoming legislative session, with little else “ambitious” to come up from elected officials.
“Beyond the budget, I don’t know that there’s going to be a very ambitious agenda at all,” said Sen. David Shafer, the president pro tempore of the Senate.
The Duluth Republican was the featured speaker Thursday at the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce pre-legislative breakfast at the Augusta Convention Center.
Rep. Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, said the session would be one of the quickest, predicting it would end in March.
“We’ll probably not deal with a lot of bills outside of appropriations and doing some unfinished business,” Howard said.
Shafer said there’s been an improvement in state revenue, but it is not considered to be a windfall.
“We’ve had some tough years. We passed a budget in 2007 that would have spent $21 billion, and several years ago we passed a budget that only spent $15.5 billion,” Shafer said.
The budget approved in the last session was $19.9 billion, up from $19.3 billion a year earlier.
Shafer said the state government is better off smaller than $21 billion because it forced leaders to focus on “what government ought to do.”
“And a lot of the people who complained about the cuts don’t want to talk about how we got to $21 billion to begin with,” Shafer said. “In 1992, the population of Georgia was 5.9 million people. The budget for state government was $5.9 billion.”
Shafer said that 15 years later, the breakdown went from $1,000 per person to almost $2,500 per person for state government in the $21 billion budget.
“During this period of explosive government spending, which somehow managed to ignore the infrastructure needs of the state … all that money was plowed into social services for which we have very little to show,” Shafer said.
In the first chamber legislative breakfast since his death, members of the Augusta delegation continued to eulogize Quincy Murphy, who died in August, and welcomed Brian Prince to the fold. Prince was elected Tuesday in a runoff to fill Murphy’s House District 127 seat.
“Quincy will be missed by all of us. He was a very close friend of mine. It is going to be hard to go back to session and look at that seat,” said Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah. “It is going to take time. He was a valuable asset to this community.”