New GBPI Budget Primer Previews 2017 as State Closes Out 2016

State tax collection rose 9.4 percent in the just-ended 2016 fiscal year, or nearly $1.8 billion more than the prior year. About $744 million of that is from a new revenue system that kicked in last July to pay for long deferred road and bridge maintenance.

Georgia’s governor announced those year-end numbers this month as the state closed the books on its 2016 fiscal year and commenced with 2017. The new $23.7 billion state budget that took effect July 1 helps pay to educate about 1.7 million Georgia schoolchildren, house 55,000 prisoners and maintain about 18,000 miles of state roads.

Those are among the revealing facts you’ll find in the latest edition of our annual guide to the state’s budget, the “Georgia Budget Primer 2017.” The 44-page booklet is also available online now in printable form.

The primer is a clear explanation of the state’s revenue collections and its spending plan. It includes basics to help a novice understand the budget’s complexities. Seasoned observers of state government will also find this publication is an authoritative reference during the 12-month fiscal year that started July 1, 2016.

Among the interesting nuggets you’ll find in this year’s edition:

  • The higher transportation tax that took effect last July results in an anticipated $1.66 billion in Motor Fuel Funds for the state’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
  • The total budget available to the state is $43.7 billion, which includes $23.7 billion in state funding, $13.7 billion in federal funding and $6.3 billion from other sources.
  • The majority of the projected revenue growth in the 2017 budget is obligated to pay for normal increases in government expenses and services. Revenues are still not sufficient to replenish many services lawmakers cut during the depths of the recession.

That last point provides critical context to reports you’ve probably seen that note the $23.7 billion 2017 state budget is a record high for Georgia. While that total is a record, funding for some state agencies remains below pre-recession levels.

Our primer also provides historical context by adjusting the numbers for inflation and population growth. For example, the state’s education budget grew significantly in nominal dollars in recent years. We adjust for inflation to show Georgia is spending less per student next school year than it did in 2002.

I can sympathize with the casual observer whose eyes glaze over when they see a number with a long string of zeroes. It is important for everyone with a vested interest in the future of this state to grasp the significance of those numbers, the basics of the way the state budgets money. Those numbers are a clear reflection of what our leaders truly value.

The final budget the governor signed for the 2017 fiscal year takes more than 140 pages for a line by line itemization of state spending. We think you’ll learn a lot of what you need to know in our 44-page condensed version, with important context provided as well.

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