For example, when Gov. Nathan Deal signed the state’s new $19.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 it must have signaled the official end of the economic downturn.
As Deal described this new period of prosperity in his signing statement: “Together with the General Assembly, we have enacted a budget that holds the line on spending, while investing in the priorities that will contribute to making Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business and create jobs and continue our high quality of life.”
Really? He must be counting on most citizens not reading the routine flow of “woe is us” news and studies involving almost every category in which Georgia is rated at or near the very bottom.
And “holds the line” on spending seems to mean up $2.2 billion from two years ago, in part because of tax revenues reviving (which, of course, can’t possibly have anything to do with actions taken from Washington).
Moreover, while $19.3 billion seems well below the all-time high state share of its own budget of $21 billion in reality it brought the total Georgia governmental outlay to what is apparently an all-time high of $39.5 billion, of which more than $20 billion will come from an increasing federal share going to this state precisely because it isn’t doing all that well.
As oft remarked upon before in this space: Aren’t state and U.S. taxpayers the same people within Georgia? If state government outlays, whether using Georgia or U.S. funds, are at a new high then isn’t taxation demand at an all-time high?
IT’S ALSO HARD to grasp how our “high quality of life” is being continued when many state functions/agencies are working with skeleton crews and no pay raises are in sight for most state employees. The state now has the smallest workforce in 14 years serving more than a million extra people.
The state’s finances are littered with incongruities like this, although hardly something that Deal or the Republicans invented. Democrats were/are pretty good at such stuff as well.
Deal was reported to have actually teared up when signing the sentencing reform bill he pushed, and deserves cheers for, to give low-level offenders a real chance at redemption and rehabilitation instead being sent to into the state’s equivalent of a no-hope Guantanamo Bay prison system.
Yet the new budget includes $35.2 million for 2,600 additional beds in two private prisons and only $10 million for new county drug and mental-health courts. At minimum, shouldn’t those outlays have been reversed?
The budget also included $10 million for rural economic development but Deal line-item vetoed $3 million for renovation of the Rural Development Center at the University of Georgia’s campus in Tifton. He did this, Deal said, because the project was not asked for by the Board of Regents and wasn’t on its list of priority needs.
However, remaining in the budget was $16 million in bonds for a building on the Winder campus of Lanier Technical College, headquartered in Gainesville, the hometown of both Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and pushed by Terry England, R-Auburn, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. It wasn’t asked for by the Technical College System of Georgia nor on its priority list. Shouldn’t that then have been vetoed for the same reason?
GETTING the idea that the only thing that makes sense is “makes no sense” when politicians are involved? Or does it simply confirm that Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, is correct in remarking that bonds have become “the way they reward folks” in the General Assembly.
Also continuing to make no sense is how Greater Rome gets treated in such state decisions.
There sure shouldn’t be any reason for a GOP-run state to punish Floyd County given how its voters have lopsidedly supported Republicans in recent years. Greater Romans should expect to find themselves in favor, not out of favor.
Yet also vetoed by Deal in the budget was $500,000 to be shared by eight state airports, including Richard B. Russell Regional that planned to use its portion to remove trees that have grown up in the flight path.
Perhaps state leaders figure that with the swarm of tornadoes Floyd County has had lately just waiting would let Mother Nature do the job.
For a local legislative delegation that has just seen the state for the third time running turn down a request for $7.2 million in bonds to help build the Tennis Center of Georgia, and Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital shut down (750 jobs lost) without even being given advance warning, that had to be adding insult to injuries.
That seems to be the only thing they “got” and it was whacked.
By the way, it’s not as though the state is being especially careful with the taxpayers’ bonding credit card. It is being used more in the coming budget, $812.86 million, than in the current one ($632.41 million).
AND THIS, despite the quite low current interest rates offered on bonds, means the state’s annual payment on interest/principal will be $1.3 billion in 2013, up from $1.23 billion this year. This comes at a time when perhaps a majority of mere citizens are trying to knock down their personal credit card totals and payments.
If, following party-line rhetoric, increasing the national debt is a terrible way to invest in the economy then why is raising the state debt for the same purpose a wonderful thing when done by the party that says it hates red ink?
It’s stuff like this that makes ordinary folk turn off any thoughts regarding public affairs and look for a “reality show” on TV instead. Compared to political gyrations and financial manipulations, those shows actually are understandable with the silliness holding (for the contestants) a reward of financial stability at the finish.
Perhaps all Georgians have to learn to live with this but that doesn’t mean they should like it. Whether at the mercy of Republicans or Democrats, the only governmental bottom line most Georgians have ever dealt with is that nothing much adds up when it comes to telling the truth.