New Year’s Diet for Bloated Budgets

Each year, the General Assembly is charged with setting a budget for our state government.  In fact, if we do nothing else during the annual legislative session, passing a budget is the one thing we absolutely must do.  It is mandated by the Georgia Constitution.

Georgia’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget exceeded $20 billion, and the FY 2009 budget we will consider during the legislative session that begins this Monday will be even larger.  These are your hard-earned tax dollars.

When budgeting for our households, we think about every penny we spend.  And that’s what the state government does with your tax dollars, right?

Wrong, at least until this year.

In the past, state budget-making has been governed by bureaucratic inertia.  Each department of the state government, through the Governor, submits an annual budget request to the General Assembly.  Previously, each department’s new annual request has been a carbon copy of the prior year’s budget, with some changes here and there that usually amount to nipping and tucking at the margins.  Consequently, the bulk of each department’s budget has been carried over from year to year to year.

This year, however, we will institute zero-based budgeting.  In a zero-based budgeting process, each department of the state government must come before the Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives, start their budget at zero, and justify every penny of taxpayer money the department is seeking to spend.  Inertia no longer will be the driving force behind the state budget.

Due to the magnitude of the state budget and the brevity of the 40-day legislative session, we can only require zero-based budgets for a couple of departments each year.  This year, it’s the Department of Revenue (DOR) and Department of Human Resources (DHR) that will be required to justify every penny in their budgets.  The departments will rotate from year to year so that every department in the state government must start at zero every few years.

Eliminate bloated budgets.  Demand results.  Justify every penny that is spent.  As stewards of your tax dollars, we owe you nothing less.

A version of this post was published in the January 9 edition of the Dunwoody Crier.

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