Legislators warn of more painful budget cuts

LOGANVILLE -- Several Gwinnett County legislators said they are preparing to make deeper cuts to the state budget in the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly.

"It's going to be a very painful session," state Rep. Len Walker, R-Loganville, said Monday evening at a town hall meeting hosted by the Area III Gwinnett Council of PTAs. "There will be additional cuts that will be necessary. ... I can assure you we want those cuts to be (the least) painful (they can be). Education is not one of those areas we would like to see massive cuts."

Walker, along with state Reps. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula, and Lee Thompson, D-Lawrenceville, and state Sens. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, and Renee Unterman, R-Buford, addressed a crowd of about 140 people at the meeting at Grayson High School about the topics that will be tackled in the upcoming legislative session.

While the delegation will work on topics such as developing a contingency plan for metro Atlanta's water supply and stopping the sexual exploitation of children, the five elected officials agreed making the necessary budget cuts will be one of the biggest challenges.

Balfour acknowledged that more cuts to education are coming. Last year, K-12 education was cut by about 3 percent.

"Unfortunately, this year, with all the fluff gone, K-12 is probably going to be cut more than 3 percent," he said. "That's not good news. That's not a good thing, but it probably will be."

Thompson urged residents to let their legislators know what services are important to them.

Unterman said everything will be on the table when the decisions about funding cuts are made.

"We're in tough economic times, the toughest I've ever seen in my lifetime," Unterman said.

She warned that the situation is not likely to improve in the next couple of years.

"2010 is not really our problem because we've had so much federal help (in the form of stimulus money)," Unterman said. "It's '11 and '12 that's really going to be critical."