Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia's Lawmakers Face Tough Decisions; State's Lagging Economy Likely to Remain Sluggish

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia's Lawmakers Face Tough Decisions; State's Lagging Economy Likely to Remain Sluggish

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Georgia's economy isn't going to turn around in time to spare state lawmakers from having to make some difficult spending decisions this year, an economic forecaster warned yesterday.

Roger Tutterow, director of the Econometrics Center at Kennesaw State University, predicted that the state will experience moderate growth during 2003. But it won't be enough to prevent a budget shortfall at the end of the current fiscal year in July, he said.

Tutterow's appearance before a joint session of the House and Senate budget committees came on the day that the state Department of Revenue released tax revenue-collection figures for December.

While revenues were up 2.7 percent over December 2001, collections for the first six months of fiscal 2003 were down 3.9 percent.

The decline reflects a recession that has hit Georgia harder than many other states and the nation as a whole.

Tutterow said Georgia's reliance on the airline industry and tourism made it particularly vulnerable to the decline in travel that has taken place since the September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

Telecommunications and other high-tech companies, which have been especially hurt during the recession, also are prevalent in the Atlanta region, he said.

As a result, Georgia has surrendered its position during the 1990s as an economic leader to one with lagging economic performance, he said.

Tutterow said Georgia's economy probably will grow slightly slower this year than the 2.5 percent rate he is forecasting for the national economy.

"It's going to be tough for the Georgia economy to outperform the national economy," he said.

Yesterday's session, the first of two days of budget hearings, was not attended by Republican lawmakers or state agency heads.

Before the hearing, Senate GOP leaders argued the sessions would not be useful because they were being held before Republican Gov. …

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