This week, we heard a presentation from the chancellor of the Board of Regents in response to the legislature’s request that our colleges and universities reduce spending. To meet these needs, their ideas include massive layoffs, cutting essential programs, limiting future freshmen admissions and cutting research programs. They said that an additional reduction in spending would be devastating.
The facts tell a different story. The University System of Georgia has roughly a $2 billion budget, even with reduced spending. By contrast, one of our most important public safety agencies, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), has a budget of $60 million, which is a $1.4 billion difference. During this economic downturn, the GBI’s budget has been reduced roughly 16 percent. In contrast, the university system’s budget has been reduced 2.6 percent. The average reduction in spending for state agencies over the last two years has been 18 percent. Clearly, the colleges and universities of Georgia have seen fewer cuts than other agencies.
As we worked on the budgets for these two agencies this week I learned two GBI agents were recently recognized for heroism in a shoot out with drug dealers. The salary for these GBI agents is $35,000 each. At the same time I learned that some administrators within the University System of Georgia have salaries of $300,000 and over. We must prioritize education and public safety for Georgians, requiring everyone to take on their share of the burden.
Georgia’s colleges and universities provide a quality education to many of our young citizens and we will continue placing a high priority on education so that Georgia can retain its world-class status in higher education. However, as we try to balance the state budget in these tough economic times, we expect even our colleges and universities to do their part. The discrepancy in budgets and salaries for heroic GBI agents and the university system will not go unnoticed.
Senate leaders are doing everything in our power to maintain crucial services for all Georgians. The safety of our citizens must not be sacrificed to meet budget shortfalls. State government has a fundamental responsibility to maintain public safety by providing law enforcement the tools they need for your safety. State patrol services, corrections facilities, police stations and GBI offices are crucial to a safe, healthy and prosperous Georgia. Corrections facilities ensure dangerous criminals remain off the streets and also provide valuable rehabilitation services so those who commit minor offenses can become productive citizens. Public safety must also be a priority through this budget process.
As we move forward, I hope we will continue hearing from you. If you have ideas to address our budget holes, please let us know. As I have said before, every option is being looked at and that includes ideas from our constituency.
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Sen. Bill Hamrick serves as Chairman of the Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. He represents the 30th Senate District which includes portions of Carroll, Douglas, and Paulding counties. He may be reached at 404.656.0036 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.