For 20 years Americans have demanded tax cuts at the state and federal level; tax cuts mean fewer and lower-quality public services.
Since 2003, even before the Second Depression, Georgia citizens have chosen to underfund public schools. The state’s formula for determining support for local school budgets, called Quality Basic Education, has been ignored in favor of tax cuts, primarily benefitting the rich and subsidizing special interests.
The accumulated total of underfunding over the decade is $5.6 billion.
While Gov. Deal’s proposed 2014 Budget for PreK - 12 is nominally more than last year, the additional expenditures only cover enrollment increases. And, his budget is an additional $1 billion below the level called for by the Quality Basic Education formula.
A survey of Georgia’s 180 school districts by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute reported that fewer teachers, shorter terms, larger classes, and pay cuts were the norm.
The long-term consequences of generations of middle class youth scarred by this educational neglect will be lower educational attainment among boys, poor quality individual and public health, and fewer high wage industries in Georgia.
The teacher layoffs will take around $9.9 million (including multiplier) out of Floyd County’s economy. As demand evaporates further, other jobs will be lost and businesses will close, further depressing our local economy. State and federal spending on unemployment insurance benefits and uncompensated health care will increase. A spiraling decline of prosperity is possible given the current Georgia legislature’s blind zealotry for ‘tax cuts only.’
Georgia is already a low-tax state. It ranks dead last in taxes collected per capita and 44th in state revenue as a share of personal income. The tax burden, both federal and state, has not been this low since the Eisenhower administration. Under the Budget Control Act, non-defense discretionary spending, which includes support to the states for education, will be 13 percent (inflation adjusted) lower in 2021 than in 2010. Look for a lot less in federal and state support for public education, unless Georgia citizens reverse the ‘tax cuts only’ gridlock.
If Georgia is to invest in its youth, modern transportation, and communication infrastructure, a balanced approach of cuts and new revenues must be adopted by legislators. Georgia’s tax code was written in the early 1930s; it has decades of layers of exemptions, credits, and sweetheart subsidies for special interests. The effectiveness and cost of these tax expenditures has never been determined.