Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year continues an unfortunate path Georgia has been on since the start of the recession in 2008.
Its emphasis on more cuts to vital services threatens Georgia’s ability to create jobs and build a strong economy. If this budget goes into effect as proposed July 1, it will cut several hundred million dollars on top of the billions in cuts made over the past five years. The K-12 education funding formula alone is underfunded by over $1 billion. In many school districts teacher furloughs, larger class sizes, and shorter school days and years will continue.
There are a few bright spots in the budget, but not many. The governor did include funds from the Hospital Provider Fee to help avoid dramatic cuts to Medicaid that would have kept many Georgians from health care they need. Without the renewal of the fee,Georgia’s Medicaid budget would face a shortfall of $700 million. In addition, almost $41 million is included to fully fund the Education Equalization Grant program to assist school districts that serve poor communities.
The governor estimates revenue growth of 4.6 percent in the next budget year, but the problem is that it would take growth of 7 to 8 percent to balance the budget and take the much-needed step of significantly increasing the state’s rainy day fund to cushion future bad times. Without new sources of revenue additional cuts are likely in next year’s amended budget.
GBPI is closely examining the governor’s budget; stay tuned for further details.