Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Monday that state revenues are trending downward and predicted a deficit of "something north of $2 billion."
The Chestnut Mountain Republican sat down with reporters in his state Capitol office one week before lawmakers convene the 2009 session of the General Assembly.
"The session is going to be pretty well monopolized by the budgetary concerns we find ourselves in," Cagle said.
He said the budget shortfall, which must be corrected by the legislature, would be an opportunity to downsize state government.
"Some agencies will experience in excess of 8 percent cuts, while education and Medicaid will be significantly less than that," Cagle said.
The lieutenant governor predicted the session would be "painful" and said there will be battles for particular interests.
"Every line item of that budget has a constituency group and all of them view their program as a higher priority than others," Cagle said. "But government cannot be all things to all people and government should only do for the citizenry what they cannot do for themselves."
Later in the news conference, Cagle said there are things the state should not be doing, such as operating golf courses and resort lodges.
He said he had been briefed by Gov. Sonny Perdue on his plan to use bonds to finance capital projects to stimulate the economy. According to Cagle, the governor wants to spend $1.2 billion on new projects funded by long-term bonds.
Cagle also said Monday he opposes loosening the state’s concealed weapons laws this year to allow guns in more public places. "Let me be very, very clear. I have no appetite for that," he said.
A state Senate study committee had been looking at expanding the places where Georgians with permits may carry concealed weapons to possibly include churches and university campuses. Last year, lawmakers approved a bill permitting those with permits to carry concealed weapons in state parks, restaurants that serve alcohol and on public transportation.
The law, which took effect July 1, spurred a legal battle at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after gun rights advocates argued that the airport qualified as public transportation. GeorgiaCarry.org is challenging the airport’s designation as a "gun-free" zone in federal appeals court. The group lost the first round in U.S. District Court.
Cagle signaled Monday that he’s not interested in a repeat of last year’s heated gun battle that put Georgia in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association, a powerful lobbying force among the state’s ruling Republicans.
"We dealt with this issue last year and I think people should be content with where we are," Cagle said.
The chairman of the study committee on firearms, Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, said he plans to talk to Cagle. But he acknowledged that his opposition will probably make it virtually impossible for a gun bill to move.
"He has the power to control the agenda," the Republican from Sharpsburg said.
Seabaugh said there have been complaints that the state’s definition of "public gatherings" is vague and has left gun owners and law enforcement confused about where guns are legal. He said the state should clarify the provision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.