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Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 4:30am

State Agencies Deal With Cuts

State legislators continued to hold budget hearings on Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2013 spending plan Wednesday. Most state agencies are dealing with two percent budgets cuts. And that often means doing the same amount of work with less money.

The two percent budget cuts Gov. Deal sought for fiscal 2013 come on top of larger spending reductions in previous years.

Funding for the state’s Environmental Protection Division, for example, has dropped about 40 percent since 2008.

The EPD will cut five positions this year. The agency is part of the Department of Natural Resources. It now has 60 fewer rangers than it did in 2008.

Mark Williams is Commissioner of the DNR. When one lawmaker asked about raises for rangers, he said he wished he could boost his workers’ pay.

“Under the budget realities of today, it would be tough," he said. "I stand with you that I would like to reward my rangers when money is available. There is a wide gap in pay parity for other posts from other agencies and I’m very well aware of that.”

Some agencies are foregoing not only general state funds but millions of dollars in fees collected for set purposes such as tire fees for landfill cleanups.

Todd Edwards with the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia says it’s unfair to charge Georgians a fee but then use the money for a different purpose.

“Budget times have been tough," he acknowledged outside of the hearing room. "But, if a fee is not going to where it’s supposed to go, then a fee becomes a tax. Let’s call it a tax or let’s get rid of the fee altogether.”

Edwards is working with legislators to draft a bill that would tie fee collection to allocation.

Gov. Deal has proposed a $19.2 billion budget for fiscal 2013.