Much ado has been made over the past couple of days about Governor Purdue announcing his intentions to furlough teachers for three days this calendar year in a cost-saving measure designed to avoid a special session of the General Assembly.
I’ll be the first to point to several different things that could have been cut other than that, but there are a few things I want to point out:
First, until now, education hasn’t received any direct cuts, even though it is roughly 55% of the budget for this state.
Second, in keeping with the GOP way of doing things in this regard, Perdue didn’t actually mandate that teachers be furloughed – legally, he can’t. What he did was to cut the funding for local schools by three days per teacher. If a local school system wants to actually furlough the teachers that day, that is their call. They could try to save the money in other ways – such as by furloughing only central office staff for a longer period, expanding the ‘no bussing’ zone around schools, lengthening the distance between school bus stops, reducing the amount of supplies – including paper, pens, and toilet paper – bought, etc. Again, that decision is completely up to them.
Now, we’ve already got two Governor candidates, David Poythress and John Oxendine, coming out with statements here. Believe it or not, I actually agree with Ox’s statement that “Teachers need our absolute support and encouragement. I believe the root of the problem is not the amount of money coming into the state treasury, but how we are choosing to spend the money. It obviously hurts our teachers, but in the end it hurts every school child in this state.” My problem with Ox’s statement is that it is typical generic politician hogwash. I want details – and Poythress has already provided some.
Poythress’ statement can be found here, but here is where he gets specific on what he would do instead:
While I am a big supporter of rural economic development, and plan to make it a top priority in my Administration, it’s hard to justify spending this money when we can’t even pay our teachers. In short, some things like the “Go Fish” program should have to wait a year until we get our fiscal house in order. That’s not tough love – it’s the right thing to do.
Apparently Governor Perdue and the Atlanta politicians disagree.
A better decision would have been to delay or sunset special interest tax breaks. A 2008 Georgia State University study estimates that sales tax exemptions total $10 billion a year. If we were to furlough some of the special interest protections by just 1%, we could generate $100 million, help balance our budget and not cut teacher pay by a single penny.
A close examination of the tax breaks enacted in 2008 reveals two premium tax breaks for insurance companies, and tax exemption on fuel used by pig farmers and up to $50 million in tax credits for donors (corporate or individual) to private school scholarship funds. Thirty five special interest tax breaks enacted between 2005 and 2008 amount to $333 million in lost revenue in the FY2010 budget. The 17 special interest tax break bills enacted in 2009 will cost Georgia another $99 million in lost revenues.
Believe it or not, in talking about eliminating exceptions to the tax code, Poythress is actually talking about something talked about on this very site a few weeks ago. I doubt the General and I would agree on much else, but there is that!
Finally, I want to point out that I wish our leaders would do their job and cut/defund actual positions/programs, rather than passing the buck down the line. I understand their reluctance to micro-manage, and most of the time I applaud that. However, there IS a time for actually making a decision when those under you refuse to for whatever reason, and that time is now in regards to cutting/defunding specific positions and programs in this state.
I’ll post a follow-on post next week with some of my suggestions about what to cut, but what about you? If YOU were Governor or running for Governor, what would YOU cut? For your reference, here’s the Governor’s Budget Recommendations.