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The Truth-O-Meter Says:

"For six years, I served our community as a conservative state legislator. In every one of those years, I helped balance the state's budget."

Clay Cox on Monday, June 21st, 2010 in a campaign mailer.

Congressional candidate Clay Cox says he helped balance Georgia's budget

Patriots, take notice.

Clay Cox wants to convince you that he's the man who can fight the move toward what he labels as "socialism" in the U.S. government.

A rousing campaign mailer lists the 7th Congressional District candidate's credentials. It says Cox has "real-world" experience balancing budgets, both as a successful businessman and a state representative:

"For six years, I served our community as a conservative state legislator. In every one of those years, I helped balance the state's budget."

So Cox helped balance the state budget?

Well, of course. So did the state's 235 other legislators.

The state Constitution requires the Legislature to balance the budget. Consider Article III, Section IX, Paragraph IV:

"The General Assembly shall not appropriate funds for any given fiscal year which, in aggregate, exceed a sum equal to the amount of unappropriated surplus expected to have accrued in the state treasury at the beginning of the fiscal year together with an amount not greater than the total treasury receipts from existing revenue sources anticipated to be collected in the fiscal year, less refunds, as estimated in the budget report and amendments thereto."

Put more simply:

"Unlike the federal government, the state of Georgia has a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget," said Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

If the budget isn't balanced, the spring legislative session doesn't end, said Katherine Willoughby, a professor of public management and policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University. If the budget goes out of balance during the course of the fiscal year, the governor must call a special session.

"There's no way for them [legislators] to get around doing their job," Willoughby said.

Any legislator who participated in the session helped balance the budget. And unlike elementary school, there's no award for attendance in Georgia politics.

The Cox campaign counters that his participation in the state budget process shows that he has the toughness to avoid tax increases in the face of dwindling government revenues.

Still, avoiding tax increases wasn't the accomplishment Cox makes it out to be. He and other legislators didn't cut enough spending for state government to pay for itself. Cox was among those who voted for a fiscal 2011 state budget with almost $13 billion in federal funding, according to a recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The budget was balanced, in part, by shifting the burden to the U.S. government.

Cox's claim was misleading. Not only did he leave out the crucial fact that balancing the state's budget is a legislator's duty. He and his colleagues "helped" pass a budget that's reliant on money from the federal government, which is deep in debt. In effect, Georgia's in the black thanks in large part to the deficit spending Cox rails against.

We rate his statement Barely True.

Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
About this statement:

Published: Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.

Subjects: State Budget


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Georgia relying more on feds to pay state bills," June 13, 2010

Georgia secretary of state, "Constitution of the State of Georgia," accessed June 15, 2010.

New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Capital Budgeting and State Debt," July 8, 2004.

E-mail statement, Alan Essig, executive director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, June 15, 2010

Interview, Katherine Willoughby, professor, public management and policy, Georgia State University's Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, June 16, 2010

Georgia.gov, "Legislature," accessed June 14, 2010

Written by: Willoughby Mariano
Researched by: Willoughby Mariano
Edited by: Elizabeth Miniet, Jim Tharpe

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