The Georgia General Assembly this week is giving its undivided attention to its top priority: passing balanced budgets.
Because of mounting concerns about the potential impacts of proposed cuts inside the Governor’s recommended budgets for the current fiscal year and for FY2021, the House and Senate went into recess Feb. 5.
With almost half of the House and more than half of the Senate serving on each chamber's appropriations committee, there was no way for the legislature to do a deep dive into the numbers and continue to carry out business as usual.
So from Feb. 6-17, appropriations subcommittees in both chambers are meeting again with the heads of state agencies. I asked members of the House's subcommittees to meet as much as they need to in order to bring me budget recommendations they are comfortable with. The chairs and their committees have been doing a great job. I am proud of the way they have dug in and are working.
During initial budget presentations at joint budget hearings the second week of the session, most commissioners and directors avoided specifics about how they plan to apply the cuts. However, knowing those details is critical to the legislature’s appropriations process.
With assistance from the top-notch House Budget and Research Office team led by Director Martha Wigton and Deputy Director Christine Murdock, we now know that the proposed budget cuts, if left untouched, will affect services to many Georgia citizens.
As someone who has shepherded state budgets through the legislative process since 2011, I don’t just look at the numbers; I look at the people each dollar touches. And every time we pass a new budget, I feel really good knowing I have had a hand in helping people with real needs.
But this session's proposed budgets have cut a wide swath throughout the state government, affecting public safety, the courts, prisons, the GBI, the Public Defender Council, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the highly successful Accountability Courts, firefighter and police training, child welfare services, public health departments, rural Georgia health programs that have just gotten off the ground, medical schools that are training doctors to work in underserved areas of this state, mental health and addiction services provided in communities across the state, libraries, ag extension offices, Bright from the Start childcare and more.
Nevertheless, I feel confident that the seasoned members of the legislature's appropriations committees will be able to thread the needle between conflicting priorities and produce new budgets that will meet the needs of Georgians.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent District 116. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call me at 404-463-2245 or write to me at email@example.com. May God bless you and your family, this wonderful county, and our great state.