November 9, 2013

Dickson says state spending not likely to grow much next year

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— Georgia lawmakers have been told to plan for a flat budget next year.

The General Assembly starts its next session on Jan. 14, 2014.

“The one thing that we are constitutionally mandated to do is to write a budget,” said state Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta. “And unlike the federal government, out budget must be in balance.”

Dickson spoke Thursday night to about two dozen people at the monthly meeting of the Murray County Tea Party Patriots at the Murray County Senior Center.

Dickson said Gov. Nathan Deal should present his proposed fiscal 2015 budget to the General Assembly sometime during the first week of the session. That’s when lawmakers will find out officially how much revenue they should plan on having to spend.

But Dickson said the governor has already been meeting with department heads and other statewide elected officials about their needs. Deal has also been working with state economists to come up with a revenue forecast that tells them how much money the government will have Out of those discussions, Dickson said, lawmakers have gotten some hints about what the budget situation will look like.

“We’ve been told to plan for flat revenues,” Dickson said.

The fiscal 2014 budget, which the General Assembly passed earlier this year, calls for about $19.9 billion in spending. But Dickson said that revenues have been slightly higher than expected, so the General Assembly will likely make a mid-term adjustment to the budget and raise spending.

Dickson said the governor’s budget proposal is just a starting point, and lawmakers will craft their own budget based on consultation with the governor.

Dickson, a former superintendent of Whitfield County Schools and member of the House Education Committee, was asked about the Common Core education standards.

The Common Core initiative is sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Federal Race to the Top grants reward states for adopting Common Core standards and tying their curriculums to those standards.

Many conservative activists fear these national standards will remove local and state control over education. But Dickson said he believes there are some misunderstandings about Common Core.

“It simply tries to reach some consensus on the standards we as a nation think are appropriate. But it doesn’t tell you what to teach or how to teach. Those decisions will still be made at the state and local level. We can teach anything we want,” he said.

Dickson noted that voters can keep up with the General Assembly at its official website www.legis.ga.gov. That site contains the full text of all bills that have been introduced as well as where they are in the legislative process. It also has live streaming video of sessions of both the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as meetings of major House committees.