Budget hearings continue Wednesday as lawmakers wrangle over how best to spend taxpayer money in these lean economic times.
Gov. Nathan Deal presented his budget proposal Tuesday. His plan calls for nearly $20 billion in state funding, nearly $41 billion when federal dollars are added.
The governor's budget plan is lean. He wants state agencies to slash $550 million across the board. This is the sixth consecutive year the governor has called for budget cuts.
When asked if state agencies can continue to function properly after so many years of deep cuts, the governor responded, "I think it will. We have a balanced budget we put forward to the General Assembly."
State Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee that determines how much funding programs receive, said the governor presented a thoughtful budget.
"He has brought forth a very prudent budget, one that is not excessive in any way," England said.
When asked if he believes the state can realistically make so many cuts and properly fund government, England answered, "Yes, I think we will have plenty of room to do what needs to be taken care of."
State Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the people of Georgia eventually will feel the impact.
"We're not doing anywhere near what we need to be doing," Tate said. "We've been cutting since 2002. You cannot continue to shrink government and think you can provide what citizens need."
Alan Essig, executive director of the non-partisan Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said continued cuts could hurt more than they help.
"There is a question whether we can keep doing things this way and what effect it has on the economy," Essig said. "The most important things business asks for are investments in education, transportation and healthcare. That is what drives the economy."
The budget hearings continue through the end of the day Thursday.
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