Georgia House and Senate request state agencies turn over budget cut documents

Morning dew on flowers at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Monday, March 28, 2016.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Morning dew on flowers at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Monday, March 28, 2016. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

After getting little information on the subject during hearings last week, the Georgia House and Senate are asking state agencies to turn over the unedited plans they submitted to the Kemp administration to meet the governor’s demand for 4% budget cuts this year and 6% next year.

The memo to state agencies was sent Monday, the day before they will begin receiving less money to run everything from the state patrol and prisons to environmental protection and agriculture education programs.

It is the General Assembly’s latest bid to get a clear picture of how state agencies will deal with Gov. Brian Kemp’s call to reduce spending.

Kemp ordered the cuts in August to both prepare the state for a possible economic slowdown and provide money for his priorities, including another teacher pay raise next year.

House Speaker David Ralston quickly announced budget hearings to review the cuts, but the Kemp administration told agencies not to send the General Assembly its budget cut plans and not to attend the hearings.

After the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported some of the budget cut details, the Office of Planning and Budget posted plans - many of them vague - on its website.

Joint House and Senate budget hearings were held last week, but they largely consisted of economists talking about the possibility of a recession. Kelly Farr, head of Kemp's Office of Planning and Budget, told lawmakers the governor is still reviewing the budget cut plans.

However, several agencies say they will cut jobs and programs, and lawmakers expressed concern about employee morale. Farr said job cuts would not be a top priority,  but that they are possible. Kemp aims to cut $200 million in spending this year and $300 million next year.

The House and Senate budget offices are now requesting copies of the unedited plans and any supporting documentation from agencies.

Cody Hall, Kemp’s spokesman, said, “Our office is currently reviewing this request.”