When it comes to investing in a prosperous future, Georgia has gone from the middle of the pack in 1989 to near the bottom today. That’s the conclusion of a new report by Georgia State University’s Fiscal Research Center that should be required reading for policymakers who take pride in slashing revenue and spending to the bone, and leave the rest of us to live with the consequences.
Among the highlights – or, rather, the low points of the report:
Georgia and its localities spend far less on critical needs, like education and transportation than the average state — $4,900 per person versus $6,000.
- Looking at state and local investments combined, Georgia fell to 48th from 30th between 1989 and 2009. This drop was especially severe in the wake of Great Recession, as Georgia fell 10 places (to 48thfrom 38th) just from 2008 to 2009.
- Georgia fell to dead last among the 50 states for the amount of revenue it collects per person, excluding federal dollars, between 1989 and 2009. Georgia collected $1,389 per capita by the 2009 budget year, more than 41 percent below the national average of$2,359.
- Georgia relies far more than other states on spending at the local level, which pushes up property taxes and creates inequalities between richer suburbs and poorer rural and urban areas. Fifty-three percent of all revenue in Georgia is generated at the local level. Only three other states rely more on local revenues.
Georgians feel the impact of these budget cuts every day in crowded classrooms and on crumbling, traffic-clogged roads. They see it in shuttered libraries and unaffordable colleges. Failure to generate essential funds and invest in the future is a one-way ticket in the wrong direction.
To build a strong economy and enhance Georgia’s quality of life, policymakers should instead pursue a balanced approach that mixes forward-looking investments with reasonable enhancements in revenue.