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Guest opinion: House begins 'Budget Week'
Guest columnist

By State Rep. Ron Stephens.

Let me start this Weekly Update with a loud “Go Dawgs.” We in the Georgia General Assembly, as well as, the entire “Bulldog” nation, say congratulations in winning the 2022 College Football Championship. A job well done, and we are all so proud of you.

The first two week of the 2022 General Assembly session were slower than normal as we broke early to watch the College Football Championship and then heard from the Governor on his priorities for this session of the General Assembly. Then this past week we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and began budget week. For those of us serving on either the Senate’s or House of Representative’s Appropriations Committees, we heard again from the Governor on his top priorities for the two budgets we are responsible for each budget year. In addition, agency heads presented their budgets and fielded questions for us appropriators on their expenditures and programs.

By Georgia Constitution, we are required to present a balanced budget each year. That essentially means our expenditures cannot exceed our revenues. Fortunately, we have a $3.6 billion surplus this year which means we can make certain amends for the past few years when we were under stricter budget revenues and higher costs mandated by the federal government.

We are in the process of putting together the amended 2022 fiscal year budget which ends June 30, 2022. In this budget, the General Assembly make corrections to last year’s budget and seeing where there are shortfalls and over-allotments. From there we repackage an amended budget to allow us to better use your tax dollars. These changes usually occur within education budgets where greater enrollment strains local school board budgets and Medicaid expenses based on higher use from new people moving into Georgia.

Upon completion of that amended budget, we begin the “big” budget which is the financial backing of the various state agencies and programs.

The two biggest costs are usually K-12 funding and Medicaid expenditures. As Georgia has seen higher increases in new Georgians bringing unprecedented population growth, in turn, means higher costs for funding to meet federal requirements.

As a leading conservative tax fighter, I was delighted that the Governor has asked the General Assembly to provide a tax refund to all taxpayers in Georgia. This is due to $1.6 billion surplus in the state’s revenues directly related to federal COVID response dollars and the fact that we kept Georgia “open for business.” We look to refund up to $250 to single filers and up to $500 for married filers. This is a chance to refund excess government revenues to the taxpayers who have a better idea on how to use their dollars than we do.

I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government. I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol. My office phone number is (404) 656-5115.

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