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Budget, T-SPLOST on Assembly’s plate

The 2010 Georgia General Assembly began its session Jan. 11.

The first order of business was to elect a new speaker and speaker pro tem for the House. The new speaker is Rep. David Ralston from District 7, Blue Ridge, Ga., who is an attorney.

The Speaker Pro Tem elected is Rep. Jan Jones from District 46, Alpharetta, Ga. She is the first woman in Georgia history to hold this position. Jones holds a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s in business administration. Both she and Speaker Ralston are proven leaders.

During session this past week we passed the 2010 amended budget (which ends June 30) for $17.4 billion, and will start work this week on the 2011 budget.  These budgets are technically the only items we are required to finish during the General Assembly session. We have recessed now for two weeks in order that the Appropriation Committees in the House and Senate can work on the 2011 budget.  There needs to be an additional cut of approximately $1 billion. Many state agencies were already cut by an additional 8 percent, which includes additional furlough days for most state employees. The state legislators will also take furlough days. We already had five to take and we have added six more.

The budget for 2010 is basically the same amount as five years ago, which is amazing when you keep in mind the state has grown by approximately 1 million people during this time. As you can see the challenge we face in providing a balanced budget for 2011 is daunting.  There will be severe cuts again as we deal with the toughest economic environment our state has seen in decades. There are no easy answers and every area will be touched.

Another very important bill being discussed is known as the T-Splost.  This issue is coming up because the Department of Transportation does not have funds to do the work in our state that is needed to fund our transportation system.

If this passes the House and the Senate, it will then be placed on the ballet in November of this year because it will be a constitutional amendment. I have opposed any tax increase but you, the people, will have the final say if this passes and is put on the ballot in November. It will fund transportation needs in each region as a 1 percent sales tax is collected in that region. No county will be able to opt out. Let me know how you feel about this bill.

Since almost half of the state budget is in education, we passed some legislation giving the school system more flexibility to manage their budgets during this difficult time.

Half of the 2010 session is gone and there is still much work to be done. You and I are praying for this downturn in the economy to come to an end soon. Even with the headaches of the shortage of revenue, the fact that you can never vote to please 100 percent of your constituents, it is still an honor and a privilege to serve District 172 as your state representative.

Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, can be reached by calling (404) 656-0152 in Atlanta, or (229) 377-1812 at his home in Cairo. His address during the session is 401 Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334. His e-mail is topdrawer@mchsi.com.