A Columbia County state lawmaker Thursday said Gov. Sonny Perdue might cut another $350 million from the state budget.
State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, said during a pre-legislative breakfast meeting held by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce that a shortfall in state revenues is forcing more cuts, and government agencies should start preparing for them.
"This is not a time for selfish attitudes," Harbin said. "Nothing is a sacred cow."
The governor has already cut about $900 million from the budget.
"Some days I look at it (the budget) and shake my head with worry. I'm not going to lie," said Harbin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "But I'm not too worried."
On a national level, Harbin said he believes the economy is improving. But he expects it will be another year before Georgia feels the effects of the recovery.
In the meantime, he said, lawmakers will try to protect education funding, won't raise taxes and will work inside a balanced budget.
Another issue that likely will share center stage with the budget once the General Assembly reconvenes in January is water, Harbin said.
Earlier this year, a federal judge banned the state from drawing water from Lake Lanier to service Atlanta residents.
The two issues lawmakers must deal with, Harbin said, will be getting water to Atlanta residents and protecting the water rights of other communities.
"That is the issue that will drive two years of discussions," he said, adding that he doesn't expect to resolve the issues during the next legislative session.
However, Perdue recently established a task force to seek solutions to the state's water problems. Harbin is a member of that task force.
Transportation issues also were discussed at the breakfast meeting by state Department of Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith.
Smith said he wants to position the state to take full advantage of the widening of the Panama Canal to accommodate larger cargo ships. He believes work on the canal will conclude by 2014 or 2015.
The state needs to further develop ports on the coast, improve its rail system and make other infrastructure improvements to meet the needs of freight carriers.
To help fund those initiatives, Smith said DOT started a program called P3 -- Public-Private Partnerships.
Though state lawmakers have discussed such transportation funding options as a penny sales tax and raising the gas tax, Smith said DOT wants to work with private industry to share funding for infrastructure improvements.
"We put a man on the moon," Smith said. "We can certainly solve the transportation issues in Georgia."
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