Crunching the numbers: Georgia budget cuts

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Yet again, State agencies around Georgia have to crunch the numbers.

Governor Sonny Perdue is ordering more budget cuts by state agencies because of $375 in federal stimulus money they counted on, but is now tied up in Congress.

All agencies have to prepare for at least a 4% decrease in their budget.  Education is exempt, except for the University System.

The heads of each state agency in Georgia were not surprised by the announcement that their state allocated funds would be withheld this year. But, John Lester, from Columbus State University said, it does not make it any less frustrating, "All state agencies are dealing with it. We are trying to build for the future of this state and region and we are trying to make sure that building process is never affected."

The local university has to create a contingency plan that ranges from a loss of 1.3 to almost 3 million dollars.  This loss is added to the 23% reduction in state allocations that they have faced over the last 2 years.

The Governor made the decision to start the reductions in budget now, even though the federal money will not run out until January.

Bert Brantley, Communications Director for the Governor, explained, "If folks remember back to 2002, Governor Perdue came in to office in January of 2003 and the previous Governor had not made these kinds of decisions, he had waited cause there was an election.  And, Governor Perdue was sworn in and he faced a 600 million dollar hole in the budget he had to fill immediately."  Brantley said Governor Perdue believes not helping to ease the pain right now is really unfair to the incoming Governor.

He spoke highly of state workers here in the Valley that, "have endured a lot of budget cuts over these last couple of years and a lot of them are doing the work of 2 or 3 co-workers.  And, they have done a fantastic job keeping the levels of service up despite lower funds."

Brantley said that there is still the possibility that the federal money may come through, but the Governor's office said after hearing Congress' discussions, it does not seem likely.

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