Local legislators discuss budget woes with south GA leaders - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Local legislators discuss budget woes with south GA leaders

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Governor-Elect Nathan Deal said Thursday he plans to lay off some state workers.

In Albany, state lawmakers stressed that Georgia continues to face a dire financial situation. They'll have to make some tough decisions to make up a budget shortfall of up to 2-billion dollars next year. Thursday, they talked about the budget with City, County, Education, and Chamber of Commerce leaders.

Education makes up half of the state's budget and get this each furlough day saves the state 45 million dollars. Local leaders worry education will take the biggest hit in the budget process. They took those concerns to lawmakers.

State Legislators entertained everything from requests to do away with state mandated graduation tests to tax exemptions as they begin looking for ways to balance Georgia's ailing budget.

"It's going to be a challenge and Education becomes a target because it's the largest piece of the pie," said Senator Freddie Powell Sims, (D)-Albany.

"Education can not be the cash cow for everything we need to do when it comes to dollar bills in this state," said Dr. Joshua Murfree, DCSS Superintendent.

Educators argued for no furlough days, but they're not the only ones pleading their case. City and County leaders questioned whether the state should add revenue by doing a way with some tax exemptions.

"There's a lot of people in Atlanta that would like to get rid of the agriculture exemptions, they don't realize if we look at things like energy exemptions we may be able to save or add jobs at a P&G here locally," said Rep. Ed Rynders, (R)-Lee County.

They also discussed the potential new regional transportation SPLOST that could provide additional revenue for transportation projects.

"The expressway would be built to go over Westover Road," said Albany City Engineer Bruce Maples.

That funding wouldn't start until 2012, putting some projects on hold. At the end of the day legislators say the revenues have to balance with the needs of the state and legislators made it clear they're in a very difficult position.

Legislators did say they were happy Dougherty County School Officials are looking for ways to improve their revenue without relying on the state. They're looking at online classes that could give them credit toward more full time equivalent students.

Legislators say various tax exemptions cost the state 10-billion dollars a year.

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