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Legislators focus on fiscal crisis
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Forsyth County News
While many legislators have the next two weeks off, four Forsyth County delegates will spend long days at the state capitol with money on their minds.

Both the state House and Senate agreed to take a short break so their respective appropriations committees can meet together and create a 2011 budget, line by line.

“We’ve got every state agency coming in next week and we’re going to go line item by line item with every agency,” said District 27 Sen. Jack Murphy. “We will find a solution.”

Murphy, a Republican from Cumming, said it’s hard to say how much will be cut from the already tight budget.

It could be close to $1 billion, he said, or at least $700 million from a budget that could be around $16 billion.

The fiscal year 2009 budget was originally about $21 billion. The current budget was set at nearly $18.6 billion last session, but the House and
Senate recently reduced it to $17.4 billion.

District 24 state Rep. Tom Knox, R-Cumming, said “the budget numbers are worse every time we see them.”

“We are going to be required to find a way to balance the budget with revenue shortfalls in the billions of dollars,” he said. “We haven’t ever had a budget shortfall of this magnitude.

“It is going to cause serious cuts in the budget.”

Murphy said Gov. Sonny Perdue was expecting a 4 percent increase in January’s revenue numbers over last year. But when numbers showed an 8 percent decrease, it “was obvious we just had to put everything else on hold.”

“The budget is the most pressing issue right now,” Murphy said. “It’s more pressing than any other bills we have in committee or anywhere else.

“For the next two to three years we’re probably going to be in a fiscal crisis and I think we’re going to probably take a look at the budget every year like we are this year and put everything under a microscope to see where every dollar is being spent.”

District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson, R-Dahlonega, and District 51 state Sen. Chip Pearson, R-Dawsonville, will also represent Forsyth during the joint appropriations meetings.

Murphy said all requests will be heard and all options are on the table for increasing revenue or lowering expenses.

But in the end, Knox said, the legislature has “no real choice when we have an economy as damaged as this.”

“We will hear and consider all their needs,” he said. “Bottom line, everyone must be cut and no one will like it.”