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Deal wants to increase state's spending

Governor's budget plan doesn’t account for tax proposals

POSTED: January 11, 2012 11:13 p.m.

Gov. Nathan Deal's budget for the coming fiscal year plans for both revenue growth and new spending.

What it doesn't take into account is Deal's proposal for more than a hundred million dollars in lost revenue if lawmakers follow through with his proposal to eliminate a sales tax charged on energy use in manufacturing.

Deal is still "working with House and Senate leadership" on his tax proposals, said Debbie Dlugolenski, the director of the governor's office of planning and budget, and hasn't yet decided where the state would make up some $140 million in revenue if it does away with an energy sales tax charged to manufacturers.

Lawmakers will have to introduce a bill to abolish the tax for manufacturers. One has not yet surfaced, and its impacts on state spending have "not yet been incorporated" into budget calculations, Dlugolenski said.

Deal released his budget proposal Wednesday, calling for increased spending in the current year and next year.

A proposal for the next six months of state spending would add about $255 million, or a little more than 1 percent of the previously approved budget of nearly $18.3 billion.

In the fiscal year beginning in July, Deal is asking lawmakers to spend $19.2 billion.

Dlugolenski, who spent about an hour explaining the budget to reporters Wednesday, says the spending proposals are based on increased revenues from last year, which are about 4.5 percent higher than those the state collected in the fiscal year ending in June 2011.

A number of the proposed increases in expenditures are geared toward the state's education funding and new criminal justice and economic development initiatives.

Some $89 million is earmarked to fund higher enrollment in Georgia's public elementary, middle and high schools.

Deal's budget also includes the authorization of more than $3.5 million in bond projects to replace roofs and HVAC units at Lanier Technical College campuses in Oakwood and in Forsyth County.

Plans to keep open three pre-release facilities for prisoners that were scheduled to close in Appling, Pike and Turner counties and convert them into residential drug rehabilitation centers were also proposed. Combined, the facilities have about 600 beds, which will be made available to state prisoners serving time for drug-related problems.

The budget also includes funding for another Youth Detention Center in Atlanta, which Dlugolenski says will open this spring.

The governor also wants to add $10 million to the One Georgia program this year and next year. The money would provide funds to a loan and grant program to boost rural economic development projects with help on infrastructure or "deal closing" costs that might encourage industries to locate in Georgia. Funding for the program, totaling $43 million, was eliminated in 2009, and the program has been operating off a reserve fund since.

The governor is also shoring up the state's Medicaid funds, and Dlugolenski says that with Deal's proposal, the program is fully funded through July 2013.

"Right now, there are no more holes in the Medicaid budget; they're shored up and fully funded," said Dlugolenski.

Still, Deal's proposal also includes a number of cuts, including a proposed elimination of the State Personnel Administration.

The personnel administration currently serves as the central human resources agency for state employees, and according to the agency's website, it also serves as the "principal record-keeping agency for state employee data and the central means of monitoring state personnel practices."

Deal's proposal eliminates 154 filled positions across the state beginning in July.

About half of those are in the State Personnel Administration.

In total, the governor proposes to eliminate 891 jobs across the state in the fiscal year that begins in July. It lowers the number of authorized state jobs to 96,794.

The State Personnel Administration was one of 37 programs in the state that faced a "zero-based" budgeting process this year, Dlugolenski said.

The process, which analyzes the responsibilities of an agency as they are mandated by law, whether other agencies duplicate those duties and how much each should cost.

Dlugolenski said this year's process reduced the agencies' budgets by a total of $9 million, and said the governor's office plans to analyze more agencies using the process next year.

The governor is also seeking to make "one-stop shops' for certain state services. His budget includes a proposal to lump a number of state safety inspections, including those of the safety of elevators, carnival rides and chair lifts, from the Department of Labor to the state's Department of Agriculture.

While the nature of the inspections has little to nothing to do with agriculture, Dlugolenski said it creates "one front door" for safety inspections in Georgia. The Department of Agriculture was chosen, she said, because the department already performs a number of inspections.

"Hopefully, we'll realize some efficiencies there," Dlugolenski said.

 



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