The 2009 legislative session will go down as one of missed opportunities, lack of leadership and failure to deal with the real problems that affect every life in our State. Correcting the systemic budget problems and effects of the recession on the state budget and proper funding for transportation met a dismal ending.
By the time this report is published, only one day will remain in the 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly – Day 40, Friday, April 3. Final approval of the annual state budget for fiscal year 2010 and major decisions on transportation funding and oversight will still be at the top of the agenda, as they were on Day 1 back in January.
On March 19, the Georgia House members voted 123-49 to approve an $18.6 billion state spending plan for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Despite a shortfall of $3 billion in state revenues because of the economic downturn, this budget plan is still chock full of questionable spending propped up by federal stimulus/bailout money, more bonded debt, school tax shifts and the largest property tax increase in Georgia history.
Despite the flow of billions of federal stimulus dollars to strengthen health care in Georgia, the governor has proposed a 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and 6 percent to physicians. This action could have a devastating effect on Georgia’s already financially strapped hospitals, especially those in rural areas.
There was more discouraging news on the economic front last week for members of the House Appropriations Committee to consider as we continue to work on the annual budget proposal for fiscal year 2010.
State revenues hit rock bottom in February as tax collections were off by 35 percent from the same month last year, one of the largest decreases ever. According to the state Department of Revenue, total revenues for last month were $629.4 million, compared to $965.8 million in February 2008.