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State budget a tough task for lawmakers
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Forsyth County News
What has until this point been a relatively quiet session of the Georgia General Assembly is reaching the final stretch. Thursday will be the 30th day of the 40-day session, which is significant in that bills have to have been passed by one chamber by that date in order to be sent to the other for a final vote.

To date this session has been relatively calm and devoid of some of the more inane legislative antics of other years. The sedate and serious tone of this  legislative assembly is due largely to the fact that there is one overbearing bit of governance that has overshadowed everything else — the need to draft a budget that will allow the state to function despite successive years of dramatically decreasing revenues.

Speaking to a Forsyth County group last week, the state’s chief financial officer, Thomas Hills, noted that in a three-year span the state has seen “almost a 20 percent decrease in revenue.” As a result, some state agencies have seen budget cuts of as much as 40 percent, he said.

Expect more of the same for next year.

In the days to come we’ll get a glimpse at how much the spending plan for the state will affect services.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, in an interview last week, provided a hint of things to come when he warned of government downsizing still on the horizon.
Cagle suggested the state budget would realign priorities and services to maximize efficient use of limited revenues.

We expect he is right, but those final days to budget adoption will not be without passionate pleas to protect sacred cows and to fund pet projects.

When Georgia was enjoying the comforts of a long-running economic boom, it was easy for lawmakers to justify a host of expenditures that perhaps weren’t at the top of the state priority list. That isn’t the case now, and hasn’t been for a while.

By the time lawmakers cast their final vote on the spending plan for the coming year, a lot of programs and services considered important to someone will have fallen to the budget ax.

But there is a plus side to the state’s economic woes as well. As difficult as the current budget decisions are, the end result should be a leaner, more efficient state government that will be better suited to serve those who fund it. Many of the cuts being made now involve spending initiatives that should never have been undertaken in the first place.

Given that, there is reason to believe that when the economic tide does turn state government may be more streamlined and efficient than has been the case for many years.