“I know that our Appropriations Committee members will work closely with their counterparts in the Senate, state agency heads, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget and the governor’s staff to ensure thorough, thoughtful discussion of the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Ralston also announced a special Committee on Economic Growth to look at possible regulatory changes needed to attract new businesses to the state. That could include things such as casino gambling, sports betting and horse racing.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the president of the Georgia Senate, said: “The Senate never stops meeting on the budget. It is very common for the chairman, vice chairman and (Appropriations) Committee members to be in and out of the Senate budget office on a regular basis.”
Ralston said the state has “managed Georgia’s finances conservatively over the last decade” while maintaining a top rating for its bonds, which are used to borrow for construction projects. A top bond rating means the state pays lower interest rates on what it borrows.
“Adjusted for inflation, Georgians still pay less per capita to operate state government than they did before the recession hit in 2007,” Ralston said. “What’s more, we’ve invested in rewarding teachers and law enforcement officers, fully funding public education and improving our transportation and mobility infrastructure while also cutting the state’s income tax rate.”
When the General Assembly meets in January, it will vote on whether to lower the top state income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.5%. It dropped the top rate from 6% to 5.75% last year.
The Kemp administration’s announcement of budget cuts last week was the first since the Great Recession, which hammered state finances and forced lawmakers to make deep cuts in spending and jobs. Kemp urged agencies to reduce waste and cut duplication in the state’s $27.5 billion budget.
The governor has also called for a cap on state spending that would put limits on budget growth in the future.
Earlier in the month Kemp warned that the state might need to cut spending so he can pay for some of his top priorities, including another big teacher pay hike. This year's state budget included a $3,000 pay hike for educators, and the governor has promised an additional $2,000 increase during his first term, which ends in January 2023.