The day of budget reckoning coming

Mac Gordon

Mac Gordon

Georgia sportsmen will be able to creep closer to their targets while deer hunting over bait. That is one of the thousands of laws that went into effect in the 50 states on July 1, the date on which most of states, including Georgia, begin their new fiscal year.

A summary by the Associated Press sent to us by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said this of the expanded Georgia law: "Those rugged types in the woods of south Georgia who use bait to hunt deer and wild hogs now will be permitted to move as close as they'd like to their prey. Previously, they had to remain 200 yards away and hidden."

That sounded a little cutting to me, but we'll let it pass without further comment.

Such legislation is interesting, but far from the most controversial that

lawmakers across the fruited plain have put together for fiscal 2012. Anti-illegal immigration measures easily took that crown. Numerous states, including Georgia, rammed through new laws on that subject.

Several states -- hello, Georgia -- are seeing their new immigration measures delayed, at least partly, by federal judges who want to wait on approving them until massive federal lawsuits filed by pro-immigration forces have been settled.

I guess you saw that almost 10,000 pro-immigration supporters shut down traffic in Atlanta near the Capitol not long ago to protest the new law. They are not taking this sitting down, so you'd better stay tuned on that one.

However, a day of reckoning is bound to come sometime in the future on a subject that will make immigration and hunting deer over bait seem like the proverbial Easter egg hunt and picnic in comparison. It would concern new taxes, of course.

Mildly put, the states are broker than hell. NCSL reports that when the states passed budgets for FY 2011, they collectively faced budget gaps of almost $85 billion. While the economy has shown some revenue improvement, the severe shortfalls continue for FY '12. Georgia is among the states not expecting peak revenues to return until FY 2014.

With huge deficits, states are reducing budgets wherever they can: K-12 classrooms; university tuition grant and loan programs; Medicaid; state parks, and law enforcement agencies (and imagine, they still want tougher immigration laws!), among others. In Georgia, lawmakers and governors have eyed our area's fine state park at Fort Gaines as a way to cut the budget. Closure has been staved off once; we hope that will happen again.

Medicaid cuts can cause public rioting. If you believe that lobbyists/advocates for the poor and needy are above rolling Medicaid patients out of nursing homes onto the streets to show how callous budget-cutters can be, you don't know what I know and have seen. And there are not many Georgians without a family member or acquaintance on Medicaid.

Yep, you lawmakers and governors who keep adding taxes on tobacco, motel rooms and restaurant fare to get by are only kidding yourselves and the public. When you must pass real increases -- on income, corporate and sales taxes -- we'll want to check out your strut then.

Mac Gordon is a retired reporter who lives near Blakely and writes an occasional opinion column for The Albany Herald.