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Legislators say state budget will be top priority this legislative session

COVINGTON, Ga. - Two members of  Newton County's delegation to the Georgia General Assembly said Friday morning that the state budget will be the top priority when legislators gather under the Gold Dome starting Monday.

"The biggest thing is going to be our budget this year," State Sen. Brian Strickland told The Covington News," Revenues are lower than they've been in the past. We also have  additional tax cuts on the table as well. So we'll have to decide whether we're going to reduce taxes by, I think it's another .25 percent.

"I think the biggest thing early on, as we have every year, is going to be the budget, but this year in particular because it's the first year in a while where we're having to look at actually reducing the budget. It's not so much how much it grows, but how much we can reduce it."

State Rep. Dave Belton agreed with Strickland that the budget will be the top priority. He told The News that budget cuts are coming.

"The biggest issue is going to be the budget," he said," For the first time in a decade, we're going to have to start cutting the budget. Revenues are down, even though the economy is doing well and we've just to figure out how to figure out how to do that cut."

Neither Strickland or Belton said they thought that cuts to tax credits for film, which could affect Covington and Newton County, would be a priority this year.

"If you kill the golden goose, you're not going to get any money. So I don't understand why they'd want to cut that" Belton said," North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama - they want those film people there. If we cut those credits, we're not getting any money out of that. I hear just a tiny bit of talk about that , but I don't think it's that serious."

Strickland concurred 

"Right now, it seems that you're hearing a lot of people that are citing different studies that have been coming out," he said," It depends on which study you want to look at as to the impact the film industry credits have had on the budget.

"My position is the tax credits have been a great thing for our state, particularly a great thing for Newton County. And we don't get that investment or that tax revenue, without that tax credit. So it's not like we're giving money away. I'm not shortsighted in looking at that issue that way. I'll support continuing to study it and I think there is  value to to having some auditing, obviously, as to what's going on with the tax credits, where they're going and jobs they're creating."

The 2020 Legislative Session will convene at 10:00 a.m. Monday, January 13.