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Friday, February 8, 2013 - 12:00pm

Slow Recovery Equals Smaller Budget

The state House passed an amended budget Friday for the current fiscal year. It reconciles projections from last year with the economic realities of today. State officials had to lower the budget’s revenue estimate because the economy hasn’t recovered as quickly as they had predicted.

State lawmakers pass an amended budget every year to reflect money needed for increased school enrollment and rising healthcare costs.

Last year, lawmakers boosted their original revenue estimate for the 2012 budget by one percent, thanks to better-than-expected tax collections. Not so this year.

Gov. Nathan Deal drew up the 2013 budget last year based on the idea that state revenues would rise 5.2 percent. Instead, they’re on pace to rise only 3.9 percent.

Rep. Terry England, an Auburn Republican, oversees the budget in the state House. He said they cut the estimate because tax collections have zig-zagged from month to month.

“I think it’s just indicative of the times," he said after his budget presentation. "There’s no financial model out there that can predict the swings we’re seeing. It’s still a very fragile economy. It’s still healing. It’s just like a patient in a hospital. You’re going to have really good days and really bad days.”

England said he and the Governor typically take a conservative approach to state revenues. He said unfortunately the economic picture looked like it was improving more than it was.

“The economy is improving but just not – as everyone is aware – just not at the rate that any of us would like to see it recovering," he said. "We based it on 5.2 percent because last year things were a little brighter. It looked like things were turning a lot quicker to the good. And of course we’ve had a few months that were not so great.”

Still, England said school enrollment is rising, which he said could be an early sign of a wider economic recovery for Georgia.

State agencies cut an additional three percent from their spending for the remainder of this year.

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