Gov. Nathan Deal presented his budget proposal to the carpenters of the state's spending plan this morning, insisting that the increased spending the Republican governor has proposed is an investment with "generational significance."
Deal is asking lawmakers to increase the current year's budget by 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 wants lawmakers to spend even more: $19.2 billion.
Kicking off budget hearings Tuesday, Deal also pointed out that his spending proposal trims certain areas of the state's budget. Specifically, the governor is proposing to eliminate the State Personnel Administration and downsize the Georgia Aviation Authority.
The governor has not proposed any new taxes, though he's publicly discussed making a more aggressive attempt to collect sales taxes from e-commerce.
And, the governor pointed out today, his proposal is still more than 20 percent smaller than a budget lawmakers carved in fiscal year 2002, once inflation is accounted for.
"This is small government that is focused on doing the things government is supposed to do and doing it well," Deal said.
Georgia's lawmakers are spending the week discussing the state's spending plan in a joint committee of representatives and senators.
As the hearings opened this morning, Rep. Terry England, who heads the House appropriations committee, told lawmakers they had an "interesting" task of cobbling the budget this year.
"I think everyone's getting a little more optimistic this year," England said.
After multiple years in which lawmakers walked into the Gold Dome facing revenue shortfalls, this year, lawmakers have about 18 months of increased revenues bolstering their budget plans.
Unlike the months before it, December brought lower individual and corporate income tax revenues than the same month in 2010. But Kenneth Heaghney, a state fiscal economist, said the dip in revenue does raise the "risk factor" of Deal's budgetary plans for the state this year.
But, Heaghney also predicted the dip in December revenues was only a "blip" and is likely not indicative of a trend.
Sen. Jack Hill, the leader of the same committee on the senate side, also spoke with an air of optimism about planning the state's spending this year.
"I think we're all on the same page of music," he said. "I can remember some years when that wasn't the case."