January 21, 2020 Atlanta - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp addresses the 2020 Season Joint Budget hearings on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.(Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Democrats turn ‘extreme’ state budget cuts into 2020 campaign issue 

Georgia Democrats are seizing on Gov. Brian Kemp’s “extreme” proposed budget cuts to try to boost legislative candidates in competitive 2020 races. 

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Thursday launched a “Don’t Cut Georgia’s Future” campaign that highlighted Kemp’s proposal to cut about $500 million from the state’s budget over two years. 

The push includes a website Democrats will use to highlight cuts that slice into Georgia’s mental health programs and criminal justice initiatives.

Party officials say they’ll focus on the “human cost behind these cuts” through the 40-day session and into November. Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director, said it would help hold state leaders “accountable through Election Day.”

“Brian Kemp made it clear from his budget that Georgia Republicans will keep breaking their promises by gutting funding for health care, services our farmers rely on, and public education our children’s future depends on,” said Hogan.

The cuts, which the governor argues are necessary to make government more efficient, have also rankled Kemp’s fellow Republicans. 

House Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday engineered a vote to delay the session to sort out the budget, leading to a harsh rebuke from Kemp’s office.  

Democratic lawmakers have also criticized the budget cuts, worrying they could erode environment protection programs, gut food safety safeguards and undermine efforts to clear a backlog of criminal evidence that remains untested.

The push was launched by the Legislative Victory Fund, an effort by the state party and an arm of Stacey Abrams’ voting rights group that aims to flip the Republican-controlled state House and cut into the 35-21 GOP majority in the state Senate. 

Democrats are targeting the 16 House seats where a Republican won with less than 58% of the vote last year. In addition, Democrats couldn’t afford to lose many of the 11 House seats they picked up in 2018, including some in districts long represented by conservatives.

The stakes are high. The party that controls the House in 2020 will have broad influence in redrawing district lines the following year, and will help set the agenda on Georgia’s most divisive and pivotal political issues over the start of the decade.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.