Monday, January 4, 2010

lunsford presession

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update

The State’s Budget and Legislation

January 4, 2010


As we quickly approach the beginning of January and are embarking on the start of a new year and another legislative session, it is time for us as legislators to focus on setting our agenda for the 2010 session.  The budget will be our priority during the session.  Other areas we will focus on this year include transportation funding, education,water concerns, and ethics reform.


With declining revenue figures throughout the year of 2009, it was a surprise to many that we were not called in for a Special Session to sort out our budget shortfalls.  The budget deficits we are facing can be contributed to a weak economy and decreasing tax and revenue collections.  In Georgia, the Constitution requires that we have a balanced budget.  The revenue estimates for the upcoming budget are based partly upon the incoming revenue numbers from the previous year.  Due to revenue declining drastically throughout 2009, we have been faced with a budget shortfall.  Luckily, we were able to use Reserve Funds and some Federal Stimulus Funds to account for the nearly $2.3 billion budget deficit.  In addition to that, for Fiscal Year 2010, the state was able to save around $35 million due to a lower interest rate on bonds.  This lower bond rating saved the state, and Georgians, money.


Just as we balance our checkbook and make sure the amount we spend does not exceed the amount we have, the state also has to do the same.  Difficult choices are being made daily as the people in Georgia tighten their budgets and focus on the essentials.  The mid-year reconciliation budget for Fiscal Year 2010 and the new Fiscal Year Budget for 2011 will be some of the toughest the state has ever had to handle as we have to reduce state spending.   It is a fiscal crisis that we will have to manage.  As legislators, we are going to have to come together and decide where the cuts will be made.  The decisions are not going to be easy.  We have to decide what the essentials are in terms of programs and services and decide where cuts can be made.  As Republicans, we are committed to not raising taxes on the people of our state; therefore, cutting and reducing our state budget is the only solution to the budget shortfall.  


Water is an essential part of our life and a resource we often take for granted.  Conserving water, ensuring water supply, and developing long term solutions have become a main topic to focus on this session.  Earlier this year Georgia was facing a historic and severe drought.  In some areas, people were either banned from outdoor watering or put on watering restrictions.  Midway through the year, we were fortunate enough to receive generous rainfall and our water levels rose.  In addition to this, the U.S. District Court has limited the state’s access to water at Lake Lanier.  The Governor created a Water Contingency Task Force in September of 2009 to try and address the water issues and for the Task Force to offer recommendations.  The Task Force has recommended what it refers to as the "3Cs" in relation to water: conserve, capture, and control.  Governor Perdue met in December with the Governors of Florida and Alabama to try and come up with an agreement on how to share the water.  As legislators, we must also do our part to preserve our water resources and also to come up with long terms solutions.


Transportation is always a priority that the Georgia General Assembly focuses on.  Last year, there were two different transportation funding bills, but neither passed. Although both pieces of legislation intended to fund transportation, an agreement could not be made on whether it should include a regional or a statewide one-cent plan. We need a solution for funding transportation statewide.  Especially since we are facing a budget dilemma, transportation policy and funding is at the top of our list.  Alternative means to funding transportation will be explored, especially as our state budget continues to decrease.  Traffic and congestion continues to be a problem, especially in metro Atlanta.  We also need a broader road system to allow rural communities to create economic development opportunities.  In Georgia we need solutions, not only for metro Atlanta, but statewide.  Transportation is something that affects everyone.  As legislators, we have to prioritize transportation projects across the state but also remain fiscally conservative.


The Republican members of the House Caucus have implemented new leadership and our new leadership team will set and implement new priorities for the session.  The changes in House leadership include: a new Speaker of the House, Rep. David Ralston; Speaker Pro Tem, Rep. Jan Jones; and Majority Whip, Rep. Edward Lindsey.  As legislators, it is our obligation to both our constituents and the citizens of the State of Georgia to uphold and maintain both our ethics and our values.  Unfortunately, the actions of a few can sometimes look poorly on the whole.  Personally, I believe that the poor actions of some legislators should not reflect on the rest of the legislators.  We are all individuals and we are all accountable to ourselves, our families, and our constituents. Therefore, we are going to take the steps to ensure that ethics is upheld by the members of our General Assembly. 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







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