After a long week of budget hearings, the General Assembly reconvened for regular session on Monday. The pace is increasing daily as senators and representatives begin to introduce new bills and meet in committees.
The difficult work of filling in the blanks on the next state budget has begun as the appropriations subcommittees began meeting as well. That is where many difficult decisions will be made in a time of very tight money with many very good programs competing for less available money.
Besides crafting a very lean but balanced budget, my Senate colleagues and I are very adamant about cutting waste in state government. In an effort to find cost-saving solutions for the future needs of Georgia, we unanimously passed Senate Bill 1, known as the Waste Reduction Act. This would implement a system of zero-based budgeting for state government.
Right now, Georgia prepares its budget on a "continuation" basis, which assumes that all current spending will be carried forward, and legislators only examine proposed increases. Instead of automatically carrying over state spending from previous years, we would start from zero. I believe the adoption of zero-based budgeting is the logical first step toward budget reform and will help us reach our goal of being a state that is efficient and effective when it comes to the needs of our people.
One of government's fundamental roles is to assist its citizens. As a state senator, I strive every day to help the people who have decided to make our great state their home. Too often, I receive phone calls from constituents who are frustrated with being transferred numerous times in search of information.
The phone number 800-GEORGIA is a toll-free service now available for citizens who are seeking services but don't know who to call. The call center will connect callers to the correct government agency with their first call. The phone service is supported by the state's KnowledgeBase, which is updated daily and validated for accuracy quarterly by representatives from every state agency.
We will be in session for five days again the first week of February as we have now finished 25 percent of our 2009 session. As always, please remember to contact me in my office on the issues that are affecting you and your area. I am here to represent you and it is an honor for me to work on your behalf.
State Sen. John Douglas can be reached at 404-656-0503 or firstname.lastname@example.org.