Another VIew: State's made most of tax dollars

Since I took office in 2003, there has been a quiet revolution taking place in state government to deliver better value for each taxpayer dollar. Joe Rogers Jr., CEO of Waffle House, likens it to a stealthy special forces operation bringing best practices from the business world into government. We have strived to deliver the best value for our citizens, incorporating efficiencies and new technologies that improve services at lower costs.

The results have been significant and far-reaching. Graduation rates are up by double digits and 4,500 fewer students dropped out of school over the last two years. SAT scores are up across demographic groups. We saved the state over $1 billion with actions like consolidating leases and reducing the state fleet by 2,000 cars.

We have lowered the rate of growth in Medicaid expenses, trimming year over year growth from unsustainable, double-digit annual increases, to a more-affordable, sustainable business model.

We have done all this and more while keeping state spending low, allowing us to provide over $2 billion in tax relief. According to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, state budget growth from 1998 to 2010 was roughly equal to inflation and population growth. But if you just look at the numbers since we took office, spending has fallen well below that metric. Just this year, the state is spending some $7 billion less than we would have by simply keeping pace with inflation and population growth.

Georgia has not been immune to the national economy. The global economic downturn has reduced state revenue and compelled us to further reduce spending. Even through this financial turmoil and dramatic drop in state revenues, Georgia has maintained its AAA bond ratings, saving the state tens of millions in interest.

Despite the strides we have made to do more with less, there comes a tipping point of diminishing returns where it literally becomes less with less. The decisions we have made have not been taken lightly. We have maximized our use of the state's rainy day fund, stimulus funds and other one-time funding mechanisms to soften the blow of reduced revenues. We've made sure education, public safety and Medicaid – the biggest chunks in the state budget — continue to receive as much funding as possible.

I know our state and nation will recover, but I will continue to govern in the present reality. We'll keep working with our agencies to efficiently manage services and personnel. We will continue to recruit businesses like NCR and bring the best ideas of the private sector into government. I'm confident our state will get through this challenging time and be primed for growth in the years ahead.