I spoke briefly to state Rep. Ben Harbin about the state budget last night. Harbin chairs the House Appropriations Committee, which does much of the work in setting the budget once the governor makes his recommendations.
As a bit of back story: Much of the budget battle during the past session centered on the House and Senate, after rather lengthy negotiations, wanting to give some money back to taxpayers. The governor vetoed their budget. Now the state's cash position is stronger, though the reserves still aren't where some state leaders (including Warner Robins state Rep. Larry O'Neal, long an advocate of strong reserves) have said they should be.
So, as the 2008 session opens, what's most important: Cutting taxes, building the reserves or new spending?
Said Harbin: "I think having the reserves about where they are is going to be a priority." Then, state leaders would see what happens with the economy in "six or eight months" and consider new investments in the economy (read: pork) or giving money back to the taxpayers, Harbin said.
Some things to remember: Gov. Sonny Perdue probably still wants his tax cut for senior citizens, the speaker wants to overhaul the entire tax system, and Harbin wants funding for the Golf Hall of Fame which is either in or near his Augusta-area district. Perdue cut that funding out of the budget earlier this year.