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Monday, January 23, 2012 - 2:00am

Bill Would Cap State Spending

There is division among state Republican leaders over capping how much the state spends each year. A bill drafted by state Senators would call for a constitutional amendment to give Georgians a vote on spending limits.

The bill is called the Taxpayer Protection Act.

It aims to hold state government spending in check. And it would reduce the state income tax rate if reserves exceeded the previous year’s budget by 15 percent.

Under the bill, legislators could override the limit but only if the state exhausts its reserves.

Sen. Chip Rogers, a Woodstock Republican, says the matter would be up to Georgians.

“They can make the decision whether they want to put some form of cap on how much their state government can spend year after year after year," he said at a press conference this week. "And excess revenues would not be spent on a new program but put into the Rainy Day Fund as they should [be].”

Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, and the bill's sponsors say it has bi-partisan support. But it’s unclear if fellow Republicans will get behind the measure.

House Appropriations Chair Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican, said the idea would limit flexibility to respond to changing economic times.

“Some of those issues a lot of times – just like the buzz word of zero-based budgeting and all that stuff – it sounds good in theory but then when you look at it in principle, it’s really hard to make it work,” he said Friday at a public policy conference in Atlanta.

He said he would have to look at the bill to decide if he could support it.

Republican Senators have also drafted a zero-based budgeting bill. It would require state agencies to justify every dollar they spend, and wouldn’t automatically renew funding from the previous year.