In Sunday’s 10 a.m. primer on state government, Institute of Government staffers Paul Burks and David Tanner, both veterans state government planners, shared basic facts on the state, state government and a little bit of how the budget process works in a two-hour session.
Here’s some of what Burks and Tanner told them:
• 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 spent in for roads and bridges — and not for purposes such as mass transit.