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State agencies prepare for more budget cuts

ATLANTA — Gov. Nathan Deal is asking state agencies to find another $553 million in reductions through June 2014.

About half of that would come from higher education and from public health — $108 million from the University System of Georgia and $170 million from the Department of Community Health — while most k-12 school funding is exempt.

Agencies are still weighing their responses to the order, issued last week, but some will consider layoffs, officials said.

The order marks the fifth consecutive year that the governor's Office of Planning and Budget has told department heads to come up with additional reductions. This year's requested cuts are larger than last year's.

"It's going to be tough because all they have done is cut, cut, cut," Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, said of the agencies.

State officials last week were sent instructions for preparing their spending plans for the rest of fiscal 2013, which ends June 30, and for fiscal 2014. Those plans must be submitted to the governor by early September. He will then make recommendations to the General Assembly for lawmakers to consider when they return in January for the 2013 session.

Georgia's universities and colleges will be asked to protect programs that directly affect the system's more than 300,000 students, said John Brown, vice chancellor for fiscal affairs.

"Reductions should first come from central and nonacademic functions," he said.

Officials with the Department of Community Health say they're exploring options but don't yet know how they will come up with about $170 million in spending cuts over the next two years. The agency announced in June it planned to ask the General Assembly for $300 million to make up a shortfall this year.

John Ellis, assistant commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, told his board this week that everything, including staff cuts, is on the table in his agency.

"I think this is the new status quo," said Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, an Atlanta think tank.

"Every year there will be more budget cuts," he said. "We have kind of hit bottom, but we keep cutting a little (more) each year."

Comments

kevin 1 year, 8 months ago

it is about time government learns how to survive in hard times instead of the taxpayer. WE are the ones that work in private industry to try and make a life for ourselves instead of giving our money away for stupid things that governments have no business doing. For most of history, government jobs NEVER paid as much or more than private industry jobs and pensions. Now the politicians have taken control, things have changed for the worse. Public employees are there to serve us not to outperform and make more money than the rest of us. That is a fact of life. You want to work in public life because of the fat benefits; annual and sick leave accumulation, pensions and paid holidays, which far outweigh private sector jobs today.

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