Deal makes move on budget promise
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal spoke of lofty goals in his State of the State address this week, tempered by the still volatile economy that makes him cautious in budgeting government funds.
To that end, Deal talked about a campaign promise in his speech the governor says will help the state better monitor how it spends its money: zero-based budgeting.
"[B]eginning this year, we will implement zero-based budgeting in 10 percent of all programs,” the governor said. "Through zero-based budgeting, we will bring a new level of accountability to state government and verify that taxpayer dollars are being spent to meet the priorities of Georgians.”
Zero-based budgeting requires an agency to justify all its spending. Critics argue the process is too cumbersome and time-consuming.
Here"s what Deal said about zero-based budgeting during the 2010 campaign: "As Georgia"s next governor, I will work to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars by enacting zero-based budgeting. This significant reform of state budget policy will ensure every taxpayer dollar spent is justified and accounted for each year. Even in austere budget years such as this, we have a tremendous opportunity to cut costs and increase efficiency in state government."
About three dozen programs went through zero-based budgeting before Deal unveiled his budget this month. The process resulted in spending reductions of nearly $9 million, Deal"s staff says in the budget. The programs included the Office of Historic Preservation, the state"s Trauma Care Network Commission, the Veterans Memorial Cemetery and the governor"s Office for Children and Families.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson told us 10 percent of all state agencies went through zero-based budgeting this year and it will eventually be done for the entire state government.
"It"s done on a rolling basis, just as we said it would during the campaign,” Robinson said.
Deal is apparently making progress on his goal to get zero-based budgeting throughout state government. We rate this promise as In The Works.
Emails from Gov. Nathan Deal"s communications director Brian Robinson, Jan. 11, 2012.
Georgia Governor"s Office of Planning and Budget homepage
Deal vows to push forward on zero-based budgeting
Each year, state agency chiefs appear before Georgia state lawmakers to discuss their proposed budgets and answer specific questions about them.
Republican Nathan Deal proposed last year during his successful campaign for governor a rigorous approach to determine if state agencies need each dollar they want.
"As Georgia"s next governor, I will work to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars by enacting zero-based budgeting,” Deal said on the trail. "This significant reform of state budget policy will ensure every taxpayer dollar spent is justified and accounted for each year. Even in austere budget years such as this, we have a tremendous opportunity to cut cost and increase efficiency in state government."
PolitiFact Georgia is tracking 37 campaign promises Deal made during his campaign. So far, we"ve rated the governor as coming through on two promises with a Promise Kept ruling, seven are In The Works, two are Stalled, 25 haven"t been rated and one pledge was rated as Promise Broken. With the state embarking on a new budget year that began July 1, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide an update on how Deal is doing with this pledge.
Five Republican lawmakers from Georgia"s House of Representatives proposed House Bill 33 earlier this year to enact zero-based budgeting. The measure did not pass.
Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the bill didn"t pass because some lawmakers were concerned about the cost to implement such an idea. Robinson said the governor is still committed to zero-based budgeting, noting that he approved it for the state"s Agriculture Department.
"We are committed to doing it and doing it right,” Robinson said.
The idea of zero-based budgeting has been around since the 1950s, some experts say. Jimmy Carter tried it as Georgia governor and as president. Ronald Reagan applied it as well when he was in the White House, but ultimately found it too costly and time-consuming, historians say.
Deal"s predecessor, Sonny Perdue, did not support zero-based budgeting and vetoed past legislation on the subject "because of the additional bureaucratic process and overhead while producing few identifiable results."
The Deal administration says it wants to get zero-based budgeting done. It may pass next year, but for now, we rate this campaign promise as Stalled.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Senate overrides budget bill veto,” Jan. 28, 2011
Georgia House Bill 33
Telephone interview with Brian Robinson, communications director for Gov. Nathan Deal, June 30, 2011.