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Posted: January 29, 2010 12:30 a.m.

A long way to go

After a break for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday on Jan. 18, the Georgia House and Senate spent three days receiving budget requests from the various departments of state government. Gov. Sonny Perdue led the briefings on Tuesday afternoon with his overall assessment of state finances and his proposed amended FY 2010 and full FY 2011 budgets. The "amended budget" means that money taken in over the previous budget estimates can be applied to important programs or visa versa if less money is received than estimated.

I would remind everyone that at this point, everything is a proposal in the budget and we are a long way from any final decisions. Having said that, the governor projects a $1.44 billion shortfall for the full FY 10 budget meaning we will have to find more cuts in the amended budget for the remainder of this year. The revenue estimate puts us in the same budget range as we were in 2004 and 2005, but with 600,000 more Georgians.

In Gov. Perdue’s budget, state employees, including teachers will face three more furlough days between January and June of this year. Those days will save the state $244.5 million dollars.

Members of the General Assembly will take more than three days furlough before July in an effort to share the burden and lead by taking more days than are being required of other state workers.

In the last few days, news has come to us that several state legislators still are not paying state taxes or filing financial disclosure forms required of state officials. Being a member of the Senate Ethics committee and someone who has filed reports and paid taxes on time, I have little sympathy for officials who don’t. Maintaining a double standard of requiring Georgians to pay taxes while some here are not paying is unacceptable.

I would support legislation barring someone from serving in public office if they are delinquent on their taxes.

Beginning Jan. 25, your legislature will move into full operations with daily sessions and a full schedule of committee hearings.

I will be honored to host the Rev. John Donaldson of the Newborn United Methodist Church as the Chaplain of the Senate on Jan. 28. We look forward to his message and visit.

As always, serving as your Senator is a great honor and privilege. Please call on me any time.

State Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) represents the 17th state Senate district. He is a retired Army Officer and chairs the Veterans, Military and Homeland Security Committee of the Georgia Senate. He can be reached at (404) 656-0503, or john.douglas@senate.ga.gov or through his Web site, www.senatorjohndouglas.com.

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