While we weren’t in session this week, it wasn’t exactly a week off – it was a week of budget hearings. I have to be honest – I’m deeply troubled by the deep cuts being made to Georgia’s budget. How did we get here? Well, let me give you a little background.
The Georgia General Assembly has exactly one constitutionally-mandated job – to pass a balanced budget. As a state, we cannot run a deficit, and we must pass that budget before we adjourn. So, every year, the budget is one of the very first things that we tackle.
If the budget is always balanced, why is the committee recommending budget cuts? For the last few months, revenues have been down for the state of Georgia. While there are many contributing factors to that, one that is significant is that the state passed a 0.25% income tax cut in 2018 that reduced revenues too much. Now, we don’t have the money we thought we would to fund critical programs in the state. Another factor is that Governor Kemp is looking for ways to fund some of his campaign promises – like a raise for all Georgia teachers – and needs to cut funds elsewhere to pay for it.
So, what’s the big deal, you say? Shouldn’t the government be operating within its means? Well, yes – as I said, we are constitutionally required to spend no more than we generate in revenue. The problem is that in 2008, the state made drastic cuts across the board as economic growth stagnated in the state. In the 12 years since, many agencies have not yet grown back to their 2007 level of funding. The state didn’t even return to funding education’s Quality Basic Education model fully until 2018. In other words, when we’re cutting budgets now, we’re not cutting them from an optimal level – these agencies are already underfunded. Right now, Georgia is in the bottom five states when it comes to spending per capita. And now, Governor Kemp is asking us to cut 10% more.
That 10% cut will mean that the state guts funding for mental health services, senior services, child welfare services, public defenders, and county public health departments, affecting our most vulnerable citizens. Currently, vacant positions in areas like school safety and food safety inspection will go unfilled. And that teacher pay raise? It will be subsidized by moving money out of the Teacher Retirement Fund.
The next step for the budget is for an appropriations bill to come to a vote in the House of Representatives, likely in the next couple of weeks. The budget is an omnibus bill – the whole thing is voted on at once and not in pieces or line items. If it passes the House, the next stop is the Senate. A helpful guide to the process can be found here.
The General Assembly is back in session first thing on Monday morning and will meet every day next week. As always, I welcome you to come to watch the proceedings from the gallery or summon me to the ropes for a chat!
I know many of my constituents are concerned about property taxes. You are welcome to attend the Fulton County Legislative Delegation meeting on Friday, January 31st, at 11:00 am. Members of the Atlanta City Council and Fulton Appraisers and Assessors will do a presentation on the commercial tax digest. There will also be a presentation on potential homestead exemptions and a presentation from the development authorities. This meeting will take place in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Room 307.
On the 47th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I was honored to attend the 5th annual Roses for Roe benefit for Planned Parenthood Southeast, where an engaging panel spoke to a packed house on the future of women’s healthcare here in Georgia. While last year’s anti-abortion bill, HB481, is currently tied up in the courts, we must remain vigilant for additional attacks on women’s healthcare. I will always stand to protect women’s access to birth control and family planning. I support access to life-saving services like pelvic exams, breast exams, and testing for diseases.
If you haven’t already, please browse my website, betsyforgeorgia.com.
As your Representative, your concerns are important to me. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-656-0116 with questions, concerns, or solutions you may have regarding legislation or other happenings in District 54.
To stay updated, follow me on Twitter and Facebook (click on links at the bottom of this email), and follow the Georgia House of Representatives @GAHouseHub on Twitter. Additionally, in-depth information regarding current bills, Georgia’s annual and supplemental budgets, committee meetings, and livestreams from the General Assembly can be accessed via www.legis.ga.gov.
I encourage you and your family to visit our State Capitol and my office, where all constituents are welcome. I look forward to connecting with you!
My office is located at:
18 Capitol Square, SW
490-B, Coverdell Legislative Office Building
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Representative Betsy Holland
GA House District 54