Georgia is in trouble. We are like a family in bad economic times whose worse fear is being realized. Our income is going down even further in an already bad economy. Governor Sonny Perdue announced today that net revenue collections for the month of August 2009 (FY10) totaled $1,052,466,000 compared to $1,259,631,000 for August 2008 (FY09), a decrease of $207,165,000 or 16.4 percent. The percentage decrease year-to-date for FY10 compared to FY09 is 13.1 percent.
Certainly policy and budget makers will be looking at these numbers with renewed concern. Already, all State agencies have been asked to cut their present budget by 5%. These cuts are on top of cuts that they sustained in the budgetary process in the legislature. Further cuts can be anticipated.
But where can they cut further?
The State has grown by almost a million people since 2004, yet it expects to collect the same amount of revenue as it did in 2004.
This year's budget was balanced by combining budget cuts, dipping into various reserve funds and Federal Stimulus dollars. A $3 billion deficit was met by requiring cuts to needed human services, medical care, and education. State employees who do the work of the State were ordered to take additional furlough days. With news of continuing declining revenues of over one billion dollars, more cuts will be required to makeup the deficit.
If nothing else happens.
DHR's workforce has been devastated with requirements to take 9 additional furlough days. While this is the most expedient means of cutting the budget while preserving infrastructure, needed services will be cut back significantly. Aging services were particularly hit hard. The gains in child wellbeing, safety and permanency for foster children are threatened by cuts of more than 15% to family support services and the furlough days for direct care workers.
Reserve funds have been tapped out as much as possible. Further Federal stimulus money has not been promised and what has been promised has been spent.
The family of Georgia just does not have anymore to cut unless it wants its children to suffer.
Waste and fraud has been eliminated as much as possible.
Efficiencies that were realized are now threatened. In DHS, caseloads have been reduced by increased investments, effective practices and management. It takes people to do the work and 80% of the budget is people. "We the willing, led by the unknowing, have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.” is the cynical mantra of those doing the work.
It will take the best of our leadership to make the best policy decisions to address what is a mounting crisis. A balanced approach is needed. Cut, cut, cut across the board is not what Georgian's are looking for. They are looking for Georgia to be the best in the country in child welfare, health care, public safety and education. Cuts must be balanced with revenue increases.
In my family in bad economic times we not only cut our expenditures, we also had to figure out how to bring in additional income. Georgians understand that cuts are needed. These cuts need to be balanced with revenue enhancements.
Welfare Watch, an email newsletter of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children as a public service.
Normer Adams, Editor
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