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Education a priority during budget process

Governor Perdue released his amended budget proposal for 2010 and for Fiscal Year 2011 on Friday of our first week in session. The Fiscal Year 2010 Amended Budget figure released was reduced to $17.4 billion. This includes between an 8 and 9 percent cut on most state agencies. Three additional furlough days for all state employees has been requested by the Governor in the amended recommendations. An option for individual school boards across the state is the choice to offset the furloughs by either using surpluses or cutting the budget in other areas. The Fiscal Year 2011 estimated revenue figure is projected at $18.2 billion. As I have mentioned before, the Governor’s budget is the recommendation for how the incoming revenue will be appropriated; however, legislators ultimately decide funding for the state agencies, programs, and services and the Governor’s budget is used as a guide in the decision-making process.
Many legislators filled the Capitol last week although we were not in session. Our agenda consisted of Joint Appropriations Committee hearings. During these joint hearings, each state agency presents their budget to both the senators and representatives of the Georgia General Assembly. Now that the agencies have presented their budgets, the House and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees will individually resume working on their version of the budget, to be approved by each chamber, and the differences will be worked out later in the session with the Appropriations Conference Committee. On Monday, Jan. 25, all legislators from across the state will join together at our State Capitol as we begin our fifth legislative session day. 
Education will continue to be a priority. If we had the ideal perfect economic and budget situation, we would be increasing the amount of funding for education. However because of our budget situation, all state departments will have to make cuts. In the Amended 2010 budget, Governor Perdue recommended that Public K-12 reduce their budget by an additional 3 percent. Although this is difficult, other agencies faced between 8 and 9 percent reductions. K-12 and higher education receive around 56 percent of the total state budget. Reductions in all areas and a critical look at the efficiency of every department across all agencies in the state will be necessary for the critical needs of Georgians to be met. Although the education budget will have to be reduced, as will the budgets of all state agencies, education is still a main priority. The benefits of improving education have a ripple effect that can be seen in our communities and throughout the state and country. As legislators, we understand that we are educating the leaders of the future and that providing quality education is essential for our future. 
Transportation is a topic that arises every session. Especially now with declining budget figures, we must continue to improve transportation infrastructure and also come up with a transportation funding plan. This week, the Governor stated that he would support a referendum on a regional sales tax to support transportation. The House and Senate lawmakers will continue working together and in cooperation with each other to find a solution to our growing infrastructure needs. We must educate our youth and protect our citizens. Difficult decisions will need to be made. Please contact me about your needs at jon.burns@house.ga.gov or at my office at 404-656-5116. Your concerns matter to me.