Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Growth Rapped Critics Question Rate of Increase

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Budget Growth Rapped Critics Question Rate of Increase

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Locking up criminals, providing health care to the

needy and schooling children have taken up an increasingly large

share of the state's $11.8 billion budget over the past decade,

a review of state spending figures shows.

The budget signed Thursday by Gov. Zell Miller is twice the

size of the $5.78 billion state spending plan of a decade ago --

a growth rate that conservative critics question.

"Have people's salaries doubled? Has the income of the average

person doubled? Or has the appetite for [tax] revenue doubled?"

asked Lowell Evjen, a former state budget official who has

studied government spending for the Georgia Public Policy

Foundation.

The conservative think-tank recently compared state spending

over the past decade in 35 department classes and found that

when adjusted for inflation, the budget increased 45 percent

overall.

Among the biggest budget winners the past 10 years were:

The Georgia Student Finance Commission, which has seen a 699

percent inflation-adjusted jump, due largely to the

lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program. The commission's share

of the budget went from 0.3 percent of all state spending to 1.8

percent.

The Department of Community Affairs, which grew 144 percent

and is the conduit for hometown grants that legislators insert

in each year's budget -- money critics at the Capitol call

"pork barrel."

The Department of Medical Assistance, which grew from a budget

of $334 million to $1.3 billion this year providing health care

to the poor and disabled. Miller has greatly expanded

eligibility for Medicaid benefits since taking office in 1991.

Medicaid -- which is matched nearly 2-to-1 by federal money --

amounted to 5.8 percent of all state spending in fiscal 1988.

Now, it's about 11 percent. …

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