Senator Dean said, when the Georgia General Assembly meets Jan. 14, the budget will be at the top of the list for lawmakers.
The biggest decision, he said, will be answering the following questions: Where do we spend? How much will we spend?
This, he said, is done through the budget process. He pointed out that Georgia is the only state in the Southeast that has “money in the bank.”
He explained that Georgia has a “more sound financial basis” than many of its neighboring states. “Since 1991, the law stipulates we must save five percent of the budget for a rainy day. Last year, we completed the year with $906 million in surplus. This year, we had $1.2 million in the black.”
He said this was achieved even with low tax rates – income, sales and gasoline.
Dean pointed out past successes which include a sales tax cut — $990 million dollars off groceries and medicine; $1 billion, property taxes and billions off income taxes; Georgia employer taxes, in excess of $1 billion.
Dean projected the budget will not be less than that of the past year. “We expect to cut back on budget requests,” he said. “However, we have ample funds to keep the government going.”
He predicted this will be the year of roads. “We have bonds eight to ten years ahead to complete the Georgia Road Improvement Program, and will return as much of this money as possible to local governments through the Local Assistance Road Program (LARP).”
Polk County, Dean said, is an example of the importance of roadwork in Georgia. “We have four lane projects on all major routes, including U.S. 27 and 278,” he said. “This is a tremendous economic boost for this area.”
Legislators will not only address issues of transportation and roads, Dean continued, but also education.
“Governor Roy Barnes has placed education at the top of his list. We believe the funding will be there to complete goals in terms of construction and facilities. We are mindful that when we look at capital expenditures it involves local budgets.”
Another area of educational growth, according to Dean, will be in technical and higher education. “We want to keep our youth at home,” he said.
Healthcare will be a big issue, he added, due to continued expenses in Medicare and Medicaid programs.