The losses show no real sign of letting up, meaning that lawmakers will continue to face tough choices about funding government services in the budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
In that kind of climate, it's no surprise that lawmakers are frustrated. It would, however, be encouraging for the taxpayers of this state if that frustration were turned into a commitment to some substantive changes in funding state government.
In particular, it would be nice to see lawmakers using the current economic downturn as an opportunity to consider ways to downsize government, so that when economic conditions improve, taxpayers might see less of a bite in their wallets.
Sadly enough, what those taxpayers have seen thus far, with furloughs and across-the-board cuts, is a decided lack of interest on the part of many state lawmakers in taking a penetrating look at the state's finances. That lack of interest was seen perhaps most clearly in a pair of resolutions introduced in the House by Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
The resolutions express concern over the Georgia Lottery Corp.'s practice of paying relatively substantial employee bonuses, which the corporation has done since its establishment in 1992.
In fairness, the bonuses are eye-popping, particularly at a time when, as the resolutions note, "state employees ... have been subjected to multiple furlough days without pay," and when the public has "expressed outrage over compensation packages and bonus payments by many private companies ... ."
According to recent media reports, lottery staffers received bonuses totaling $2.7 million last year, up almost 10 percent from the previous year. Lottery CEO Margaret DeFrancisco's bonus for last year was $204,034, up from $150,000 the previous year.
But some context is important. According to a Georgia Public Broadcasting report on the bonuses, lottery officials recently announced that revenues for the first half of the current fiscal year "were up more than $8.49 million from the previous year."
Additionally, it's important to note, as the GPB report did, that the lottery "receives no state funding and was set up to operate like a business, with a president who reports to a board appointed by the governor. Its employees are not considered state workers."
Conceding that Harbin and the other sponsors of the two House resolutions might have a point with regard to the lottery bonuses not passing the smell test, it's clear that those bonuses have nothing to do with the state budget.
Harbin and other lawmakers would better serve the people of Georgia by addressing issues about which they can do more than pass resolutions.