Senate budget includes new cuts as session nears end

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed an $18.6 billion budget plan for the upcoming year that includes new spending cuts and increases the cost of some health insurance plans for state employees.

However, senators say it fills a $140 million-$150 million potential hole they say the House left in the Medicaid health care program for the poor.

After the budget for fiscal 2010, which starts July 1, passes the full Senate Wednesday, senators will begin negotiating with the House. The House approved a fiscal 2010 budget less than two weeks ago. Negotiators will be racing against the clock because the 2009 session is scheduled to end Friday.

“We don’t have time to posture,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill (R-Reidsville).

Some of the big spending items expected to trip up the chambers appear to be on the verge of being solved. For instance, both chambers kept money in the budget for school nurses, which Gov. Sonny Perdue had proposed to eliminate.

Another program Perdue recommended eliminating, a 10 percent bonus for teachers who win national board certification, was funded by the House. The Senate partially funded it.

To help fund the health care system, the state will increase state employee health care costs for certain insurance plans.

The budget plan includes a $1.2 billion bond package. Senators squeezed more money out of the bond package by projecting lower interest rates. Rates for borrowing have been dropping.

They also made several changes to the governor’s and House’s bond package. They eliminated money Perdue and the House had put in the budget to improve the commuter bus system in Atlanta. But they added $4.2 million to rehabilitate and expand rural railroad lines. They cut out two projects at Georgia State University that the House had put in, including one to create an outdoor recreation facility downtown. But they left in money to keep open money-losing state park golf courses in rural Georgia.

Hill said the senate budget makes further cuts to the Department of Natural Resources and the agency may decide to close or privatize the golf courses on its own.

The Senate plan includes money for construction and improvements at several libraries in districts represented by the minority Democratic Party. That includes $2 million for the DeKalb County central library and $2 million for a branch library in Forest Park.

The House had removed funding for those libraries, even though they were high on the state library system’s priority list.

9 comments Add your comment

Hilary Smith

March 30th, 2009
2:28 pm

Too much power in too few hands; we need to break up the banks now. There are rallies being organized as we speak in cities around the country for April 11, 2009. Visit “A New Way Forward” at http://www.anewwayforward.org to find out about protests being planned in your state.

mee

March 30th, 2009
2:32 pm

remove funding for libraries but kept open money losing golf courses that makes so much sense. These kids need to be in alibrary instead of playing video games all day.
listen to this I called my friend who lives in maryland i called the landline it was ringing and ringing I had to call like three times the phone is in the living room, his kids didn’t pick up the phone because they could not find the cordless and were playing a video game.
LOL. well the video game has been banned and they all go to the park three times a week.

Road Scholar

March 30th, 2009
2:33 pm

No raises for 2 years and increased health care costs for state employees. What about the teachers? Is there two Georgias? The last figure I had heard for state employees was that the premium cost to employees would go up 30% What was the results from the committee to examine state retirees pension shortfalls?

Hera

March 30th, 2009
2:51 pm

Vote out all current Elected Spenders. It could not get worse.
This is the group we elected. Throw them out-PLEASE.

Doug

March 30th, 2009
3:19 pm

So, funding libraries and construction on university campuses are more important priorities than maintaining some semblance of order for state employees?

How does the Senate expect teachers and state employees to be able to function? Sure, we have jobs, but they’re barely going to be able to afford the pay cuts, furloughs and increases in health premiums! I can’t understand why we continue to charge people who actually work for the increasingly Medicaid system.

peed

March 30th, 2009
4:07 pm

I vote that all legislators fall on a sword. If none are available, I vote that we appropriate an adequate supply out of their salaries.

TW

March 30th, 2009
4:42 pm

So, the failing golf courses are a priority over teachers. At least the Republicans aren’t pretending to care about education anymore.

stuck

March 30th, 2009
4:51 pm

Why is the state funding libraries, isn’t that a function of local government?

DooDa

March 30th, 2009
5:01 pm

I can no longer afford to be a state empolyee with out a second job.Every year I get futher in the hole. Let everyone on the hill go with out there pay this section that will raise a lot of money.