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Economist forecasting moderate growth for Georgia

Georgia Department of Economic Development
Georgia’s economy is growing at a moderate pace and is expected to continue doing so in the foreseeable future, the state’s economist said Tuesday.

Jobs and consumer spending are on the upswing, and the housing market is improving, Kenneth Heaghney told members of the General Assembly’s appropriations committee at the start of a daylong hearing on the $23.7 billion fiscal 2017 state budget Gov. Nathan Deal recommended last week.

Georgia added 93,000 jobs between November 2014 and last November, including more than 15,000 in November 2015 alone, Heaghney said.

“That’s a very strong pace of growth, one we’re not likely to sustain,” he said.

Heaghney said consumer spending is high, as the economy continues rebounding from the Great Recession.

“[Consumers] have more wealth … than they did four to five years ago,” he said. “They have higher real disposable incomes.”
Heaghney said housing prices are on the rise. However, the market still has a long way to go to get back to pre-recession levels, he said.
On the down side, Heaghney said manufacturing is trending down, while the stock market is showing volatility due to concerns over China’s weakening economy and the effect of low oil prices on resource-dependent countries including Russia, Brazil and Canada.
However, he said he doesn’t expect those international trends to spill over into the rest of the economy.
Deal, who also spoke to lawmakers, said he based his spending proposals on conservative revenue estimates of 5.8 percent growth for the remainder of the current fiscal year and 4.2 percent growth in fiscal 2017.“This is a year where we shore up many of the reforms we have already put in place [and] tweak them if they need additional funding,” he said.
Heaghney said state tax collections have been strong during the last six months, largely because of $363 million in new revenue the transportation funding bill the General Assembly passed last spring pumped into the state’s coffers. But he said sales taxes only grew slightly during the first half of fiscal 2016, mostly due to a provision in the transportation funding legislation converting the fourth penny of the state sales tax on motor fuels into an excise tax.

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