2012 Capitol Update 3 – Budget, School Choice, Tax Bills

This week the House unanimously passed  House Bill 741, the Amended Fiscal Year 2012 state budget. This was the first time in recent history that all members supported the supplemental budget.

The amended budget takes into account the very slight economic growth, in conjunction with a one percent withdrawal from the state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve, and constitutes a 1.39 percent increase in state revenue, bringing the total AFY 2012 state budget to $18.5 billion.  Despite this positive sign of economic recovery, per capita spending in Georgia continues to be held at decade-old levels.

I am pleased to report that the biggest adjustments to our current state budget were made in K-12 education funding.  The AFY 2012 state budget also secures healthcare programs for children and the indigent.  Other noteworthy investments in the AFY 2012 budget include restoring GBI agent positions and funding a fraud detection computer program for the Department of Revenue.

State agencies are still working to do more with less.  In fact, the AFY 2012 budget cuts funding for state agencies by about $110 million, making it even more important that we ensure funds are not tied up by unnecessary restrictions.  In an effort to simplify the bureaucratic red tape of agency funding and ease infrastructure development, this week we also passed House Bill 806.

HB 806 frees up prior year motor fuel funds so that they can be used on public roads and bridges.  Prior year motor fuel dollars are motor fuel revenues that were previously appropriated and spent in prior fiscal years, but were reimbursed to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) by the federal government or released by projects completed under budget.

Education Committee passes HR 1162 supporting school choice

A bi-partisan vote of 15-6 on passage of HR 1162 sets the stage for a Constitutional Amendment permitting the citizens of Georgia to determine the state’s role in K-12 public education. In my estimation, this is a logical and reasonable response to the 4-3 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court last year that invalidated the General Assembly’s ability to authorize charter schools as has been the practice for over a decade.

Traditional public education provides for the needs of approximately 92% of students and that should remain the case. However, I also believe choice should be an alternative for those that will benefit from charter and other specialized public education.

Commissioner Steele improves transparency in Gwinnett with a new tax bill 

A very special thank you to Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner  Richard Steele. Commissioner Steele, a strong supporter of transparency in government, has voluntarily modified the 2012 Property Tax Bills to better identify non-tax fees and assessments. In the sample provided, non-tax fees and assessments total nearly 15% of the total bill.

View a sample 2012 Property Tax Bill here.

Join in support of Richard Steele for Tax Commissioner on Facebook here.

An update on the progress of HB 291 to prohibit the billing of non-tax fees on your property tax bills is available here and includes a Summary, the Bill (one page in plain English), and a list of Co-Signers.

HB 291 Update