Tax refund checks come with message: Brought to you by Gov. Kemp

When Donald Trump was running for reelection in 2020, his treasury secretary made sure the president’s name was on COVID-19 stimulus checks that went out to 35 million Americans.

Gov. Brian Kemp and state lawmakers are facing reelection this year, and the Georgia Department of Revenue is making it clear to Georgians exactly who is responsible for the special surplus tax refunds they are now beginning to receive.

Many Georgians receive direct deposits of refunds. But those who received refund checks get a message that states, “Memo: 2021 tax refund. May incl, spec refund auth by legis/signed by Gov. Kemp.”

“The regular tax refund checks do not have that statement,” Revenue Department spokesman Mason Rainey said. “Any special refund check that has been issued since they began going out last week will include that memo.”

The primary election is Tuesday.

A spokesman for Kemp said she did not see a mock-up of the checks before they went out, and that the Revenue Department was responsible for the memo. The head of the agency is appointed by the governor.

Georgia House Minority Whip David Wilkerson, a Democrat from Powder Springs and a certified public accountant, said he’s not surprised Kemp’s name is on the refund check and that many of the checks are being sent out right before the Republican primary. Kemp faces former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is backed by Trump, in the primary.

“It’s clear a lot of their decisions are based on the political points they can score. That was true with a lot of legislation during the session,” Wilkerson said.

“I guess the question is, when people have to pay their tax bill, is he going to put his name on that?” Wilkerson said.

The state is doling out roughly $1.1 billion in a special tax refund because it ran a surplus last year.

Under House Bill 1302, which received final passage from the Georgia Senate in March, single Georgians would be able to receive a $250 refund when they file their taxes, joint filers $500. The refunds would go to those who filed returns for the tax years 2020 and 2021, and the money should be available in six to eight weeks.

Aided by a flood of federal COVID-19 relief money, the state’s economy had a strong recovery last year from a brief pandemic recession in 2020.

The state ended fiscal 2021 with a $3.7 billion surplus, and part of the leftover money went into the government’s savings account.

Democrats have said Kemp, a Republican, has glossed over the fact that the surplus was built, in large part, on federal aid that went for everything from enhanced unemployment checks and child tax credits to housing, health care and business aid.

Earlier this week, Kemp announced $415 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid to businesses and nonprofits. The administration’s lengthy press release touting the aid didn’t mention it was federal relief money until the final sentence.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, the Kemp administration received in December recommendations for those awards from a committee he appointed. Other big awards recommended by Kemp committees were publicly announced in February.