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Perdue fumbles fiscal responsibility

The Savannah Morning News The governor made the wrong move vetoing budget review measures. Governor Sonny Perdue is fond of using football analogies, so here’s one he should understand: He fumbled the ball on the way into the end zone. The governor’s veto Wednesday of a bill that would have set up zero-based budgeting and a sunset requirement for state agencies was an unforced error. His disappointing decision robs Georgia’s lawmakers of a useful tool that would have helped them balance future budgets and ensure that public tax dollars are funding worthwhile programs. As it stands now, current funding for state government is automatically rolled over into the next year’s proposed budget. Zero-based budgeting would have changed that process, requiring that 25 percent of the state government to be budgeted from the bottom up each year for four years. It wouldn’t have necessarily cut costs. However, it would have forced state department heads to justify every dollar they want to spend, not every new dollar they hope to spend. Ideally, ineffective, outdated or just plain wasteful programs that made sense years or even decades ago would be weeded out. Programs that still got results would survive. The sunset requirement began as a bill to put limits on state regulatory agencies, but was later amended to cover almost all state agencies. The beauty of these bills is that it forces government agencies to think responsively and creatively. Instead of doing something because “it’s always been done that way,” department chiefs would have to think like many of their counterparts in the private sector must think to be successful: How do I better serve those who count on me? Yes, that’s a culture change. But it’s one Georgia must make, if only because the public can’t afford limited tax dollars to be squandered. Mr. Perdue vetoed the bill before leaving on a trade mission to Cuba and hasn’t been around to explain his decision. But a supporter of the measure, who had met with the governor last week, said Mr. Perdue expressed concerns that the bill would weaken the executive branch and give the legislature more power. If true, that’s a lame excuse. The legislature has always held the purse strings and will have the last word on spending. The governor has always had the power to veto bills that the legislature passes. It’s hard to see how this measure would have upset the balance of power in Atlanta. Call it fumble, Mr. Perdue. Recovery by the business-as-usual crowd.

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