Tuesday, March 10, 2009

lunsford weekly update

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update

March 8, 2009


As the 27th day of the legislative session ends, the legislature is in full swing. As we become closer to legislative Day 30, Cross-over day, bills are moving fast as we are trying to get bills out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote so it can be sent to the Senate for consideration.

This week, one of the large accomplishments was an effort to fund transportation.  Accompanying House Bill 277 is House Resolution 206 and both passed out of the House this week.  HB 277, the Georgia 2020 Transportation Act, passed out of the House on March 3rd by a vote of 149-18 and HR 206, to establish a Transportation Trust Fund, passed by 151 to 15.  This bill and resolution would create a transportation trust fund, establish an oversight committee, and allow an authority to administer and disperse the fund. Voters will have the opportunity to approve a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in the general election in 2010 which would allow a 1% sales tax for state wide transportation projects and improvements. The major transportation initiatives are detailed in the legislation and it includes specific transportation projects across the state.  Also, the fourth penny of sales tax currently collected on motor fuel would be redirected from the general fund to transportation.  It would raise approximately $25 Billion during the next decade.  Transportation is a priority and we are trying to come up with a solution.

The House and Senate have differing legislative solutions to try and solve our transportation needs. The main difference is the Senate version would make the sales tax regional. The different versions for funding transportation will hopefully be worked out in Conference Committee.

As I have described in the previous weeks, our economy in the state and across the nation is struggling. We are faced with decreasing state revenues and we, as legislators, are facing more budget cuts than we ever have in previous years.  Federal stimulus funds will help to offset some of the cuts; however, with state revenues now estimated at $1.6 billion less for the fiscal year that begins July 1st, even more cuts are going to have to be implemented. 

As I have stated already, we have never experienced cuts to this extent in the state of Georgia and difficult decisions have to be made, none of which are easy. From the Federal Stimulus Package, we are going to accept approximately $1.1 billion which will help to soften the cuts, but many more cuts will have to be made. From the stimulus funds, $467 million will be used for the revised 2009 budget, to help fill some of the gaps. The rest of the Federal Stimulus money will be used to help cover some of the shortages in the 2010 budget.

Some have argued that we should accept all federal money that we are offered; however, as legislators in Georgia, we somewhat disagree.  For some of the Federal Stimulus funds we could accept, there are strings attached. As your elected officials, we are trying to figure out what the strings are and what federal money we are willing to accept. We have to do what is most beneficial to the people we represent and to the state of Georgia. Your opinions and concerns are important to me and I consider it an honor to serve you at the state capitol and in our district. If you would like to reach me, please call me at (404) 656-7573 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 401, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at    john.lunsford@house.ga.gov


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