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Four weeks ago, state agencies were directed to prepare proposals for budget cuts by May 20th, each with a benchmark of cutting 14% off the top. The total cuts are expect to reach $3.8 billion and as information pertaining to how those cuts will look has started to trickle out, state employees and citizens alike are concerned about the reduction of services on a limited budget. 

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More than 1.3 million Georgians filed initial unemployment claims in the five week period following the announcement of the pandemic measures in Georgia. According to a Georgia State University study, a $1 billion hit to sales tax revenue could be in store this year as well. April’s tax revenues were down 35% from April 2019, though some of that is due to the change in income tax filing deadlines.

Based on budget plans submitted so far, at least 1,000 filled jobs would be eliminated and thousands of state employees would be furloughed. Most of the proposed changes will be implemented effective July 1 for the start of FY 2021.

The Department of Labor asked to be exempt from the 14% cuts (so did the Public Defender’s Council)

Law Enforcement

  • GBI & GSP Troopers could see up to 24 furlough days
  • The GBI will freeze vacant scientist and lab technician positions at the state crime lab.
  • 28 GBI positions will be left unfilled
  • The Department of Public Safety would delay a new trooper class a year and freeze vacant positions

“Obviously, public safety is one of the more important duties the government provides for the safety and security of its citizens,” Senator Tyler Harper said in a committee hearing in a vow to work to limit furlough days for law enforcement.

Education

$1.3 billion would be cut from the state’s formula that aids its 1.8 million K-12 students, more than $700 per student. 

Local school systems are holding off writing budgets until they can see what the state does, but won’t fill teacher vacancies and are planning for LARGER class sizes

Department of Corrections 

  • Closure of 6 facilities, including Autry State Prison in Pelham

Criminal Justice Coordinating Council – 

  • $4.3 million from the accountability courts budgets would mean 2,000 people who currently work outside of confinement on the tail end of their sentence could actually end up back behind bars. This would mean offenders in Mental Health Courts, Drug Courts, Veterans Courts, and even Parental Courts.
  • According to Northwest Georgia news, the alternative-sentence accountability courts saw roughly 12,400 participants enrolled in 163 courts statewide last year.

Health

  • Department of Public Health would send $17.7 million less to county health departments
  • The Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disability would eliminate 367 positions and close 1,676 beds for independent living and inpatient services ($172 million)
  • Also abandon maintaining closed mental hospitals in Rome and Thomasville.

University System of Georgia – $361 Million in cuts

  • According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution735 currently filled positions could be eliminated while 1,341 unfilled positions are on the chopping block.  
  • All 26 college and universities in the system would be impacted
  • Other cuts include trimming travel budgets, canning start-up incentives for new hires, and limiting student worker budgets
  • UGA has proposed eliminating graduate assistant positions and eliminating faculty and staff phones in the School of Public & International Affairs
  • Georgia Southwestern University has proposed closing things like swimming pools and the university golf course.
  • Staff with the Board of Regents could be furloughed up to 16 days, while big schools like UGA and Georgia State could lay off 220 and 181 workers, respectively. 
  • University presidents would see a 10% pay cut with 26 furlough days. 
  • You can read the 51-page report on the AJC site.

Georgia’s constitution requires the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget each year. The 2020 fiscal year ends June 30. Lawmakers are set to return to the Gold Dome on June 11th, two days after the primary election.

Jessica Szilagyi
Written By

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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