By John Schaffner
Transportation, water, ethics and recreating Milton County are all important issues facing the General Assembly this year, according to Dist. 54 State Rep. Ed Lindsey, but for him the number one issue is the budget.
Speaking to the monthly Bagels & Business meeting of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, Lindsey pointed to the audience and said the problem is “you are not making as much money as you did in the past,” meaning the public in general.
Lindsey explained that the state budget two years ago was $21.2 billion. Today, he said, it is $17.4 billion, a reduction of $3.8 billion.
The budget is funded primarily through income taxes and sales taxes, which is determined by “how much people make and how much they spend,” he said.
He pointed out that 85 percent of the state’s revenue comes from salaries and two-thirds of that is teachers’ salaries. Unemployment in the state is well over 10 percent at present and is about 17 percent, if you count the people who have given up on looking for a job, Lindsey said.
In terms of state spending, Lindsey said education, health and prisons eat up 80-85 percent of the budget, with education alone taking close to 60 percent.
Lindsey said that, although much has been made of cuts that have been made and are proposed to education, the state is spending a higher percentage of its budget on education.
Lindsey said everything is on the table for discussion in dealing with the budget issues. However, he cautioned those at the meeting, “If you come to me to suggest cuts that can be made in the budget, include something that will impact you. If you are going to suggest an increase in a tax or fees, make it an increase you will also have to pay. ” He said he is not inclined to listen if the suggestions only impact others.