Last week I attended the Biennial Institute for legislators at UGA and one of the presentations included some interesting facts that I felt are worth sharing:
• The number of state employees is down by nearly one-fifth in six years — about 67,500 today versus 83,000 in 2008.
• Most of Georgia’s annual state budget goes to three kinds of expenditures: education (54.1 percent), health, including public health and Medicare (23.1 percent) and safety, such as police courts and prisons (8.4 percent). Georgia pays about 5.4 percent of its annual budget ($20 billion this year) for debt service.
• Georgia sets a limit of 10 percent of the state budget for debt, but in practice, Georgia leaders have observed a 6 percent limit — low compared to many states. That low debt load is a big reason Georgia has a AAA bond rating, which allows the state to get the lowest possible interest rates when it issues bonds for building projects such as the University of Georgia’s $45 million Student Learning Center.
• Georgia state revenues come mainly from two sources — sales tax (25.2 percent) and individual income tax (45.8 percent). Corporate income tax accounts for about 4.1 percent. One kind of tax, gasoline tax, can only spend in for roads and bridges — and not for purposes such as mass transit.
• Georgia’s official $20 billion budget size is really much larger, thanks to federal money for education, road building and other purposes. Federal dollars will add about $7 to $8 billion this year.
• Georgia has one of the largest prison systems in the United States, with 60,000 prisoners, 160,000 probationers and 12,000 employees. Corrections officers have the highest turnover rate of any other type of state employee, and also hold the most dangerous job in state government.
• While Georgia was founded nearly 300 years ago, in 1733, its first legislature came in 1751. The state is the largest state in terms of acreage east of the Mississippi and its population is now about 10 million.
• The state has more than 140 departments, agencies, authorities and other government entities, but only about 80 actually are active. The governor controls most of the appointments, directly or indirectly through his authority to appoint board members.
• Georgia has more than 1.7 million students enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade public education, which employs about 110,000 teachers.
• The state is spending more on Medicare (15 percent) and prisons (10 percent) now than in 2008, when 12 percent of the budget went for Medicaid and 9 percent for prisons. Higher Education accounts for 15 percent of the budget, compared to 14 percent in 2008.
Your comments and questions are always welcome. Have a wonderful holiday season.
Senator Fran Millar