Legislative session 2017
We did not wait for the session to begin this year as we started having budget meetings on January 3rd. All of the House budget sub-committees met this week to hear the initial presentations from from most of the state agencies for the 2018 budget. The governor’s office has asked for budgets to be “flat” or level with the 2017 budget as amended. In the 2016 budget, revenue came in more than 4% over expected. So far, we are running… 9.4% over projected revenue in the 2017 budget. The Governor is taking a fiscally sound conservative approach asking for 2018 budgets to be level with 2017. Remember setting the amount to be budgeted, is a constitutional requirement of the Governor. The General Assemble then has the constitutional requirement to pass a balanced budget to that spending level. We start off early in the session with the “little”budget, or the amendments to the current year. It is always much better to have revenues exceeding projections where we can add to needed areas, or not spend the additional revenue and put it in the raining day fund as we have done in the past. When the Governor’s office over states expected revenues and we fall short, then the amended budget is a fight as we cut programs and funding. We don’t do “Washington math” in Georgia. A cut is actually less money not a reduction of an increase. However, even when we budget “flat”, there will be increases in the budget. Approximately 52% of the entire state budget goes to education. As the population of our state continues to grow, the FTE money the state sends to the schools grows. The increase in student population alone cause an increase in our budget. Right now our “flat” budget will be in the neighborhood of a $900,000 increase.
From my Appropriations sub-committee on Human Services, I asked all of the presenters to give us more information of wages. Every year we hear from every agency and department that they cannot keep good people or attract good candidates because the state’s pay scale is below market. Then they ask for an increase in spending on programs. I asked, why would you spend more on a program if you don’t have the people to run it? I certainly do not see value in spending money that way. I am looking forward to seeing what type of salary survey the agencies present to the committee.