(The Center Square) — A taxpayer advocacy group gave Georgia a “C” financial grade, ranking the state 23rd in the country for its fiscal health.
According to the non-profit Truth in Accounting’s “Financial State of the States 2023” report, Georgia had $46.907 billion to pay $46.923 billion worth of bills. As a result, the group said the state would need $5 from every taxpayer to pay its outstanding bills, which include bonds and unfunded retiree health care benefits.
“Georgia’s financial condition improved in 2022, but the state still needed $15.7 million to pay its bills,” according to the report.
Georgia, like other states, saw its economic condition improve on the heels of federal COVID relief money and increased tax collections. However, the group noted that unfunded employee retirement obligations, such as pensions, “plague the state.”
“Unfortunately, the market conditions turned negative during fiscal year 2022, resulting in significant investment losses, which in turn caused the amount of unfunded promised pension benefits to increase,” according to the report. “This volatility highlights the risk to pension systems and taxpayers when fixed benefits are partially funded by earnings from erratic markets.”
Nationally, Alaska topped the list, ahead of North Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. New Jersey ranked at the bottom of the list, edging out Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute shows Georgia had a $16 billion “surplus” at the end of fiscal 2023.
“The state has the chance to make a real difference in the lives of Georgians by investing in critical areas such as child care, education, and workforce development,” Danny Kanso, senior fiscal analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, said in a statement. “With $11 billion in undesignated reserves, we have the resources to make historic investments that will benefit all Georgians for generations to come.
“But lawmakers need to act now, and they need to act responsibly,” Kanso added. “The people of Georgia deserve to know that these public dollars are being used wisely and effectively, and that they are being directed towards the areas of greatest need.
“State leaders must work together to make the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a brighter future for all Georgians.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor