Bookman: Child welfare, public safety not big Georgia priorities

Tentative state budget cut plans calls for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to eliminate 16 investigator positions. Courtesy GBI.

This is a story about priorities.

Fearing a slowdown in tax revenue, Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered many state agencies to cut their budgets by 4% in the current budget year, and another 6% in the following year, for a total savings of roughly $530 million. Most of those savings would come from social-service, law-enforcement and service-delivery programs.

For example, 21 child-welfare protection positions have been proposed for elimination, because clearly we have too many such workers on the state payroll. The tentative plan calls for 16 investigators for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to be cut, because again, the GBI has become a blatant example of government fat and waste. Agricultural research jobs would also be targeted, because with the rural Georgia economy doing so well these days, that assistance is no longer needed.

And yes, it’s sadly true that Georgia mothers are dying in childbirth at the highest rate in the nation, and that we have the nation’s ninth-highest infant mortality rate. (As a report for the state House of Representatives tells us, that’s in part because almost half the counties in the state have no practicing OB/GYN physician.) But tough decisions must be made. In the interest of austerity, the state will probably renege on its promised grant of $500,000 to help establish a maternal mortality research program at Morehouse School of Medicine that would try to figure out a way to keep more Georgia mothers and babies alive.

You know, priorities.

Now, here’s another story about priorities:

As they prepare for the upcoming legislative session, Georgia Republicans are planning to cut the state income tax by $550 million a year, with most of the benefits going to Georgians who are already enjoying high incomes. According to an analysis by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the proposed tax cut would save those in the top 1% — those with incomes of $572,000 and above — an average of $2,786 a year.

Those Georgians in the middle 20% of income – those making $38,000-$49,000 annually – would enjoy an annual tax cut of $59, or $1.13 a week.

We are told, of course, that the $530 million in budget cuts demanded by Kemp have nothing whatsoever to do with the $550 million in tax cuts that Kemp and his colleagues are contemplating. We are told that the budget cuts are necessary because revenue might be declining, and we are told that the tax cuts are necessary in order to make revenue decline even more.

If you can spot a policy or logical consistency in those two arguments, you are a wiser person than I.

Georgia is the eighth largest state in the country, with annual population growth of roughly 100,000. It has the ninth largest gross domestic product. We are no longer a poor state that is financially incapable of providing basic services to its people to help them become safe and healthy and productive; we haven’t been that kind of state for a long time now.

Instead, we are an affluent state that chooses not to provide adequate basic services. It is not accidental that we have the third highest rate of uninsured in the country, well above that of poorer states such as Arkansas and Louisiana. It is a conscious choice, because to our current state leadership giving tax breaks to rich people is more important than providing basic health care to those in need but unable to afford it.

That’s who and what we are.

Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.

10 COMMENTS

  1. And yes, it’s sadly true that Georgia mothers are dying in childbirth at the highest rate in the nation, and that we have the nation’s ninth-highest infant mortality rate.

    Kinda brings into sharp focus the canard of cons being “pro life.”

    • Being Pro-Life (being against killing unborn humans) and thinking people should be responsible for their own healthcare (either paying for services out of pocket or through insurance) do not have to be linked unless you make them so. Some people are capable of holding two different thoughts within their head, and able to see a world of difference between voluntarily killing an unborn human on purpose and a person not taking care of their own healthcare.

        • YOU pay your insurance premium monthly in my case, and the deductible (out of pocket) once treatment has been received. The insurance company will cover a certain percentage of the cost of treatment/procedure. If the insurance company refuses to cover the treatment, then you must pay for it out of pocket, if you can’t afford to pay for it out of pocket then you may have an issue. But that is because you could not afford it, and it is my opinion people should be responsible for their own healthcare, where as an unborn human has no ability or say in it’s healthcare. This is a little of an over simplification as there are factors that go into the decision of the insurance company. If someone doesn’t want to pay for insurance that is their choice.
          None of that has much to do with your claim about Pro-life and all that though, nor does it really address my response to your comment. And it is kind of a dumb statement since I am aware of how insurance works unless you can show above how my explanation is wrong. And insurance and how it works still doesn’t a dress your claim about Pro-Life.

          • YOU pay your insurance premium monthly in my case, and the deductible (out of pocket) once treatment has been received.

            Is it your contention that your premium payment + out of pocket payment pays for the cost entire medical procedure?
            Clearly, you don’t understand how group insurance works.
            Just sayin’.

      • Conveniently skip over this part? “Georgia mothers are dying in childbirth at the highest rate in the nation, and that we have the nation’s ninth-highest infant mortality rate. (As a report for the state House of Representatives tells us, that’s in part because almost half the counties in the state have no practicing OB/GYN physician.)”

        • Unless we plan on forcing these doctors to live in these counties or open offices there, nothing in the article above or the comments offers a sure way to rectify this. It is possible OB/GYN’s just don’t want to live there or open a practice in these counties.

  2. Love the bluntness in this column! When are average Georgians going to wake up to the fact that they have been sold a phony bill-of-goods by Republican politicians?

    • Half the state has no OB/Gyn’s so who do women in those areas go to for birth control? I suppose they don’t. So, the women become pregnant. Soon they will be forced to give birth. IF they survive pregnancy with no OB/Gyn care they’ll now need to house, feed, insure, educate, nurture the child. With little to no help from the very people forcing her to give birth in an area with inadequate maternal and newborn care. As far as GOP cares the woman and her child can die from malnutrition, or complications from, or any number of diseases and illnesses. But all is just dandy because an abortion was not an option. I can not connect how this is “pro-life”.

  3. And Public Defenders will be furloughed 10 days in the next 9 months. 2 in Nov and 1 the rest of the months. And then 2 days a month in the FY21 budget.

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