The second week of the legislative session is always about the budget.
The governor in Georgia is more powerful than in many states, in large part because he sets the overall budget. The House then writes a budget bill with its own recommendations, passes that bill and then sends it to the Senate. There is always a Conference at the end to negotiate the differences.
Unlike the federal government, Georgia passes a balanced budget every year. Many critics downplay this accomplishment because our Constitution requires us to pass a budget. But the federal government is also required to pass a budget, and they haven’t done so for over 20 years. This hurts the military especially, as generals and admirals have to plan decades in advance to procure expensive new weapon systems.
It’s one of the reasons the Air Force is flying 70-year-old airplanes across vast oceans. Can you imagine getting into a 1950 Buick today, strapping a bunch of bombs aboard and then driving it across the continent? The Air Force does this every day.
The Georgia budget this year will go up 3.7 percent, or $1 billion. That increase is due to the surpluses of our economy, not because of a tax increase. In fact, Georgia’s surpluses grew so much last year (without increasing taxes) that the House voted to cut our income tax. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass the Senate.
Another thing to note is Georgia is very blessed we have such a booming economy. Twenty-seven states had to cut their budgets last year.
The major increases this year will be in education. We plan to add $361 million to the teacher retirement system, $102 million to teaching and learning and another $59 million to schools. Another $60 million will go to our university system. There will also be a 3 percent increase in HOPE.
Medicaid will see a $256 million boost, as well as $68 million to nursing homes. Transportation, which was just a mere $673 million a few years ago, will be at $1.9 billion. Georgia is now building more roads than any state in the nation.
Overall, 53 percent of the budget will go to education; 21 percent will go to health services; 8 percent to troopers, prisons, and the National Guard; and 7 percent to transportation.
The governor also said he is leaving a little wiggle-room for a possible bid for Amazon. If Georgia were to land that second headquarters, it would mean the single biggest project in our history: $5 billion and 50,000 jobs.
On the revenue side, 45 percent of the budget comes from the income tax, 23 percent comes from sales tax, 7 percent comes from fuel tax, 6 percent comes from fees and 5 percent comes from the voluntary lottery.
It was my privilege to honor former Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey with a Special Invite Resolution in the Georgia House this week. Ramsey served Covington for an amazing 37 years. He was the chairman of so many boards and charities that it would be impossible to list them all.
His vision of lengthening the runway at the Covington airport and bringing more than 100 movie productions to Covington not only won her the distinction of being “the Hollywood of the South,” but also laid the firm foundations that secured several multi-billion-dollar projects such as Shire and Three Ring Studios. More importantly, his devotion to the Salem Camp Ground, an annual “shade-tree” revival that has been going on for 200 years, is a testament to his love of our Lord and the people of Covington. Dozens of his family and close friends came to the House Chambers to hear Ramsey speak from the rostrum.
I hope you will continue to pray for me as I server the people of Newton and Morgan counties. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-372-4114.