ATLANTA — Georgia State Patrol troopers could face as many as 24 furlough days next year because of dramatically dwindling tax revenues caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
The Department of Public Safety, along with the Georgia Bureau Investigation, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Georgia National Guard and other public safety agencies made their budget proposals to a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. All state agencies are facing proposed 14% across the board cuts.
“It was a very difficult decision,” Col. Gary Vowell, of the Department of Public Safety, told senators. “We’ve counted nickels and dimes and looked everywhere and been as inventive as we can without laying people off. I’m open to recommendations, but with 14%? I don’t see any other way.”
State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, expressed worries over seeing state troopers furloughed.
“I certainly have grave concerns about the 24 furlough days,” Albers said. “I know you were already undermanned before this started.”
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State Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, expressed concerns as well.
“Very concerned,” Seay said. “I am holding my breath because, public safety (furloughed) during a pandemic? You know you have multiple things happening at the same time. We need our frontline people working.”
Other agencies laid out their own plans to institute those 14% cuts. GBI proposes freezing nearly 30 crime lab positions and furlough days. The Department of Corrections proposes closing seven facilities. The Georgia National Guard said it needed to close some of its youth challenge camps so the cuts wouldn’t affect one of its core missions of fighting COVID-19.
“We’re not proud of it,” Gen. Tom Carden said. “We’re not happy about it. Those are great employees, and they worked hard for us, but financial realities are what they are.”
Lawmakers will have to decide on the fiscal year 2021 budget before July 1.
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