Sunday, March 14, 2010

weekly update from lunsford

Under the Gold Dome

State Representative John Lunsford's

Weekly Capitol Update

March 14, 2010

The General Assembly went back into legislative session this week after our two week recess whereby the members analyzed the budget, looked for potential areas to trim the budget, and awaited the incoming revenue figures.  Our top concern remains to finding the best solutions for balancing the budget.   On Monday, our first day back from the recess, the General Assembly received news we were all expecting and waiting on, incoming revenue figures.  Although the General Assembly had high hopes that the economy was improving, the incoming revenue figures for February fell nearly ten percent in comparison to last year.   This marks the continued decline of incoming revenue  for the fifteenth consecutive month.  Hoping for good news, the numbers were better than we expected; however, any amount of decreasing revenue for the state equates to trimming, and therefore balancing, the budget.  Our optimism remains and the economy will eventually improve. 

On Thursday, Governor Perdue stated that the revenue figures first released would have to be revised.  On a positive note, the budget will not have to be cut as much as we expected.  As I have previously explained, the budget hearings that have taken place over the last two weeks were preparing us for the worst, but hoping for the best.  As legislators, we wanted to be prepared should the revenue figures had been more than anticipated.  The General Assembly has been planning for a potential $1 billion in additional cuts; however, the numbers were not as severe, although we were preparing for it.  For the current fiscal year, the revised amount is an additional $342 million in cuts in comparison to Perdue's original estimates.  For the budget in Fiscal Year 2011, which begins on July 1st,  the revenue estimates must be trimmed by $443 million which puts the budget at $17.7 billion.  Although cuts are tough, many of us were relieved that the budget will not have to be cut by the projected $1 billion.  While the state was improving and doing well, we were able to expand services and increase our budget.  Now times are tough and we have to make some difficult decisions as our budget goes back to the level it was in 2005 and 2006. 

On Wednesday, March 10th the members honored and reflected upon the service by former Speaker of the House, Thomas Murphy.  As Speaker in Georgia for 28 years, Speaker Murphy was the longest serving speaker in the history of legislatures.  Outside the House Chamber, a picture of Speaker Murphy was placed and reminds all of us about hard work, dedication, and leadership. After all, the House is called the "People's House."

Many important pieces of legislation passed the House this week.  With the budget still on all of our minds, legislation that is beneficial to the citizens is also of importance.  House Bill 1135 passed out of the House this week which would allow the Department of Transportation (DOT) to enter into multi-year contracts in one year increments.  Currently, the funds for a project for DOT must be available before a contract is signed; however, this will allow the DOT  to sign the contract and obligate the funds for it and thereby improving efficiency and appropriated the funds responsibly.  Unanimously passed this week was HB 984 which would ensure that taxpayers would not be potentially taxed by both the county and the city for a 1% income tax on individuals and/or businesses.   It would be burdensome to allow cities and counties to place another tax on income especially when many families are struggling financially. Relating to the payment for teacher's certification fees, the House passed HB 1079 which allows additional payment methods of credit or debit cards to pay those fees.  Currently only check or money order can be used and by allowing other forms, it makes it more convenient for our teachers.  Another bill related to education passed this week was HB 1013 which would require school boards to publish in the newspaper an annual summary of their sales tax for education (ESPLOST).  This is already required by cities and counties that receive special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) and to ensure transparency in both, the boards of education should also be required to do the same.  I will continue to keep you informed as we progress through the 2010 legislative session.  Should you have any ideas, questions, or concerns, please feel free to contact me (404) 656-0213 or write me at: State Rep. John Lunsford, 508 clob, State Capitol, Atlanta, GA  30334 or e-mail me at




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