Hearings Get Underway After Kemp Introduces Proposed Budget

IAG Staff

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

To read all of InsiderAdvantge Georgia’s daily news, SUBSCRIBE HERE. *Subscription includes a complimentary subscription to JAMES Magazine.

It is the second week of the Georgia General Assembly and that means budget talks are underway. This year talks could get more intense as lawmakers look for ways to trim the budget and meet the challenge by Governor Brian Kemp to cut spending by 4 percent this fiscal year and another 6 percent in fiscal year 2021.

Kemp kicked off the week-long hearing schedule Tuesday by introducing his proposed FY21 budget of $28.1 billion during a joint meeting of the state House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Kemp told lawmakers “that even in this positive economic climate, to fully support our students and teachers, care for our most vulnerable Georgians, and strengthen our economic development efforts, we must prioritize our existing financial resources.”

He went on to say that ‘the budget before you shows that reducing costs doesn’t require drastic cuts to other agencies.”

Kemp stated that the amended FY20 and the FY21 budget will continue to prioritize quality affordable healthcare for vulnerable citizens with almost $90 million in the 2021 budget for enrollment and expense growth in Medicaid.” The proposed budget also includes $45 million to fund a $1,000 pay raise to full-time state employees currently earning less than $40,000 annually.

The governor said he felt this budget shows “taxpayers that we are good stewards of their hard-earned money, and with this blueprint we will continue to build a state that Georgians will be proud to call home.

“I fully understand that the legislature now has a chance to put your blueprint on this budget and we sincerely look forward to working with you as we did last year to come up with a budget that will make our citizens proud and continue to move our state in the right direction,” Kemp added.

Members of the Joint Committee also heard from Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman, the state’s fiscal economist and a University of Georgia professor, who told them “there is pretty much zero chance we are in a recession now and not close to one.” However, he added that Georgia’s economy is likely to “grow slowly or shrink over the next 9-12 months.”

He added that several of the state’s top trading partners are in a recession or experiencing a slowing economy. Also affecting Georgia’s economy, Dorfman said, is the state’s record low unemployment rate. “Unemployment is so low that we have essentially run out of workers, so job growth has slowed.”

Dorfman also explained that another reason the budget is tight “is because state government has returned to taxpayers and local governments a significant amount of revenue.”

He did point out several highlights — record employment with more Georgians working that ever before; 79 percent of plant openings were outside the metro Atlanta region last year; and Georgia was named the No. 1 state for business the seventh year in a row.

“The state of the economy is quite good,” he said.

The committee hearings will continue through Thursday.