Dublin lawmaker Hatchett to head powerful Georgia House budget panel

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Georgia House Speaker Jan Jones has chosen a veteran Dublin lawmaker who is part of the chamber’s Republican leadership team to lead one of the most influential panels in the General Assembly, the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Matt Hatchett, who has served as majority caucus whip and chaired the highly successful House Republican political fundraising arm, was picked to replace longtime Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, who didn’t seek reelection this year.

The committee plays a key role in deciding how the state spends more than $30 billion a year on everything from K-12 education and colleges to roads, prisons, law enforcement and parks.

Hatchett, director of mission enhancement for the School of Medicine at Mercer University, has served in the General Assembly since 2011 and was a floor leader for then-Gov. Nathan Deal. He has been a member of the budget committee and vice chairman of the House Rules Committee, which sets the agenda of bills to be considered by the chamber.

He has also served as chairman of the House Republican Trust, which raised more than $4.5 million in the most recent election cycle for GOP House candidates.

England led the budget committee for more than a decade, from the tail end of the Great Recession when spending cuts were common through the COVID-19 pandemic and in recent years, when rising wages and inflation and federal COVID-19 aid helped bolster state revenue to the point where lawmakers cut income tax rates and sent rebates to millions of Georgians.

Jones became speaker when the chamber’s longtime leader, David Ralston, died last month. She will serve until the General Assembly reconvenes next month and is expected to be replaced by Rep. Jon Burns, R-Newington.

Typically, committee chairman aren’t officially announced until January, but Jones wanted to give Hatchett a head start working on the upcoming year’s budget, officials said. Gov. Brian Kemp will announce his budget proposals during the first week of the 2023 session, which begins Jan. 9.

“The House takes very seriously our stewardship role in working with both the governor and the state Senate to produce a conservative budget that invests wisely for Georgia’s future,” Jones said in announcing her pick to lead the committee. “I know Chairman Hatchett will ably lead the members of the Appropriations Committee in their important work.”