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House passes FY 2011 budget

Legislative update

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POSTED: April 22, 2010 2:26 p.m.
Returning from our recess, the General Assembly was refreshed and ready to get back to doing the people’s work. It has been a longer legislative session in comparison to the past few years; however, the end is in sight. With only four legislative session days left, the General Assembly confirmed that our last day of the 2010 Legislative Session will be Thursday, April 29. One of the most complex budget years in the history of the state, we have made necessary, but difficult, choices as we reduced spending and therefore the size of our government. When the economy does poorly, it not only affects individuals, families, and businesses; but, the economic downturn has also had an impact on our state government and budget. After months of hard work and thoughtful consideration about the budget for the state, the House passed a very slimmed Fiscal Year 2011 budget on Wednesday and it will now go to the Senate for review. Although we are all anticipating that the end is near, there is still much work left to do during the final days of session.
This week the House tackled a daunting task and a major accomplishment as the members balanced and passed the Fiscal Year 2011 budget, House Bill 948. One of our duties as legislators, and also a requirement of our State Constitution, is that we pass a balanced budget for the state. The House passed the FY 2011 budget during the later hours of the evening on Wednesday. This budget included a total budget for the state of $17.8 Billion. The FY 2011 budget will now go to the Senate for consideration and most likely a Conference Committee will meet to work out the differences. Times are difficult for many people, not only within our state, but throughout the country. Over the past two sessions, the General Assembly has had to downsize the budget for the state and include cuts that have not been easy. The General Assembly has decreased the size of government and the FY 2011 budget is near the budget levels from 2005. The only necessary way to way to balance our budget for the state was to reduce spending. To downsize the budget we had to make difficult cuts to many good programs and areas which we all consider high priority. A key element of the FY 2011 budget is that it does not include state mandated furlough days; however some agencies may eliminate positions or require furlough days so that they can manage their budgets. Hoping for an economic recovery soon, the state received encouraging news as revenue collections for the month of March increased one percent. Although we still have a very far way to go, this is the first increase since November of 2008. As we are all aware, the recovery for our economy will not be a quick nor easy process.
Just as the state has had to do, we are all tightening our budgets and reducing our spending. Bringing some form of relief to the families in Georgia has been a topic greatly discussed. The General Assembly passed tax relief this week with HB 1055. Called by some as the “Georgia Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010,” the passage of this legislation brings needed relief to taxpayers. This bill would eliminate the taxes on all senior retirement income and would also eliminate the state portion of the ad valorem property tax. This Act would phase out the taxes on senior income and the state property tax and once both tax cuts are fully phased in, Georgia taxpayers will save roughly $236 million a year. Another aspect of this Act is that it will adjust outdated state fees and fines. In analyzing our budget and trying to find ways to save, we found that at many times the fee charged by the state for services does not cover the cost of the service. This difference was passed on to the taxpayers of Georgia; however, under this Act the issue will be addressed and those using the services will pay for it. The Georgia Taxpayer Relief Act of 2010 will bring meaningful tax relief to the taxpayers within our state. I will continue to keep all of you informed on our progress during the 2010 legislative session. We are quickly approaching the end of session; however, please feel free to contact me at any time should you have any questions, ideas, or concerns.
Please do not hesitate to let me know your position or thoughts on issues that concern you. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-5099 or write me at: State Rep. Ron Stephens ,228 CAP, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334 or e-mail me at ron.stephens@house.ga.gov
 

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