On March 5, the Senate took a major step toward providing real transportation relief for Georgians.
With the passage of Senate Bill 200, the Senate voted for an understandable and equitable funding process that will enable transportation dollars to be spent more efficiently, effectively and strategically. The bill allows for a new, transparent model for funding decisions that gives the General Assembly and the governor direct appropriation powers, much like the way other agencies in Georgia are funded and governed.
As legislators, we will be better able to represent our constituents' needs by having greater say in the appropriations process and directing what projects are funded. Local governments will also see increased funding, as a minimum of 25 percent of the State Motor Fuel Funds collected annually will be deposited into a Local Grant fund and will be dedicated to local transportation projects.
Budgets and spending were also at the top of the list last week, as the Senate fulfilled its Constitutional requirement to balance the 2009 budget. While Washington was busy spending more money, Georgia was successfully prioritizing needed projects and cutting wasteful spending. Some additional highlights of the budget include:
- Reducing the footprint of state government by approximately $1 billion
- Restoring the mental health funds
- Addressing consumer protection by providing for four new food safety inspectors
- State legislative offices cut budgets by 8%
- Achieving $10.5 million in savings from lower interest rates after selling state bonds
This budget is a result of a long and difficult journey over the past year and a half. Since last January, the governor has lowered revenue estimates five times. Through all of this, we were successful in minimizing any changes to education, with only a 2% overall budget cut. This is a remarkable accomplishment considering the unparalleled economic conditions we have faced.
We have also maintained the state's triple-A bond rating, which is vital to stabilizing the state's economy because it keeps interest rates low. The triple-A ratings reflect the highest rating available to government issuers and demonstrate what a great value Georgia municipal bonds are to investors.
By exercising fiscal responsibility, reducing the size of government, and restructuring transportation, I believe we will bring about real change and move Georgia forward.
Sen. Jeff Mullis serves as chairman of the Transportation Committee. He represents the 53rd Senate district which includes Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties and portions of Catoosa County. He can be reached at his office in Atlanta at (404) 656-0057 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLICK ON THESE LINKS