Augusta's cyber center, GPB target of Georgia Senate budget cuts

by Anna Munhin Mar 25, 2023 News
FILE - Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery speaks in the Senate chamber at the Georgia state Capitol, March 31, 2021, in Atlanta. Tillery's committee passed a bill that cuts higher education funding as part of a larger dispute. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center are targeted by a Georgia Senate budget proposal.

The proposed cut to teaching and health insurance funds for the state's 26 public universities and colleges was the main topic of discussion after the budget passed the state Senate.

The spending plan proposes a cut to Augusta University's Cyber Center out of $5.5 million in state funds. There is a cut to the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission. Out of the state funds, that is.

Similar cuts were not sought in the House's proposal. Georgia's legislative session is scheduled to end on Wednesday, so representatives and senators need to work out their differences.

Moody's has downgraded Augusta University Health System.

The Georgia Senate approved a budget with a cut to the university system.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee was questioned about the cuts to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Its programming includes television's Sesame Street, as well as National Public Radio, public affairs programming and high school football games.

The importance of public education can't be overstated.

The state funding of GPB has caused complaints from other broadcasters.

They are really asking why you are funding my competition. "Weinery said that." That is a very valid point. Why do we pick winners andlosers? I don't believe that's the space we want to be in.

The budget cut of $500,000 was not enacted. Emails obtained through a public records request show that GPB President and CEO Teya Ryan believed the cut was meant to retaliate for liberal news coverage. State funding doesn't cover TV and radio programming. GPB's transmission towers and educational outreach are paid for by the government.

Georgia Public Broadcasting didn't say anything Friday.

The public television station in Atlanta that doesn't get state funding didn't know of any complaints. The Georgia Association of Broadcasters did not reply to a request for comment.

The senior vice president of marketing and communications wrote in an email that they don't see GPB as competition. The more independent, unbiased news organizations and content hubs that serve the Greater Atlanta region, the better.

There is no hatred of GPB in this building and the state has contributed to GPB capital improvements. He said senators would like to see GPB continue to focus on educational programming.

The Cyber Center's leaders promised to become self sufficient when Gov. Nathan Deal spent $50 million to build it, according to Tillery. Augusta will become a center of computer security research and development with the help of the Cyber Center.

The center was supposed to rent office space to partners.

The center made a commitment to us early on that they would be able to support themselves on rents and now we're moving them to that part of their budget.

Augusta University, the Cyber Center and the University System of Georgia did not respond to questions.

The president of the Augusta Economic Development Authority said that he didn't know where the center was on the path to self sufficiency, but that he was worried that it might have been delayed by the swine flu.

If money is needed for the Cyber Center's operation, it will negatively affect downtown Augusta.