“A Government We Can’t Afford”

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Faced with the continuing budget crisis, the General Assembly recently took a two-week recess from the legislative session so House and Senate panels could meet jointly to hear status reports from agency and department heads.

My eyes were glued to these historic Joint Appropriations Committee meetings. However, tuning in to 18 hours of the budget process at work was too much, even for me. It was difficult to watch policymakers asking the commissioners and state agency leaders who work on behalf of Georgia’s children and families how much more they could slice from their already pared-down budgets.

Here are just a few of the common questions agency leaders fielded last week:

  • “If we cut 60 personnel, how much would that save?”
  • “How much are staff members making, and what are their benefits?”
  • “How much do you save for each day of furlough?”

Agency leader after agency leader explained to policymakers that there are hardly any places left to cut without laying off personnel. In many agencies, additional declines in staff would severely cripple their ability to provide vital services across the state to children and families.

Several legislators pointed out that these difficult times require difficult decisions. Lawmakers must cut at least $1 billion from the FY11 budget to balance the budget. One agitated legislator said, “We have a government that we can no longer afford.”

We all recognize this critical moment in our state’s economy and the severity of the decisions we’re all forced to make.  While many hold to the notion that there is room to cut government because there are still inefficiencies, there is a rising sentiment that leaders must consider other options that will provide more revenues in Georgia because agencies are already cut to the bone.

We can’t afford to continue these same budget-cutting strategies knowing the negative impacts they’re having on Georgia’s children and families. I urge our policymakers to ask just one more question—this one of themselves:

How will the budget decisions I’m making today affect our kids now and 10 years down the road?