Jan 14, 2022 - Politics

A look at Gov. Kemp's Georgia budget in a flush financial year

Kemp shakes hands with lawmakers wearing masks
Gov. Brian Kemp greets state lawmakers before giving his State of the State address Thursday. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

One of the strongest powers of Georgia’s governorship lies in its influence on the state budget, and Gov. Brian Kemp just outlined his budget plans for the year.

Driving the news: After a strong economic bounce back with record tax collections and a $2.2 billion surplus, Kemp has a lot of money to work with.

Context: The governor controls the state’s revenue estimate — which determines how much money the state can spend. He sets an initial budget proposal and later has a line-item veto on any edits to the budget by the General Assembly.

Some of the details:

  • As previously announced, Kemp plans to give back $250-$500 in income tax refunds to all Georgia residents this year, spending $1.6 billion of the state’s budget surplus
  • More than $700 million to fully fund the state’s public school system, cover higher education enrollment growth and restore the pandemic austerity cuts made across education in recent years
  • $79 million to fund HOPE scholarship growth needs
  • A $2,000 pay raise for public school teachers, one of Kemp’s campaign promises
  • $2,000 bonuses for full-time, state-funded instructional staff, school support staff and administrators, and $1,000 bonuses for school bus drivers, nurses, nutrition workers, and part-time employees.
  • A $5,000 raise for all state employees
  • Extending Medicaid coverage for all new mothers from six months to one year after giving birth, and automatically enrolling children in Medicaid as part of any food assistance application
  • $33.5 million for behavioral health and developmental disabilities funding
  • A 10 % provider rate increase for all foster parents, relative caregivers, child caring institutions and child placing agencies
  • $600 million to upgrade prison infrastructure
  • Roughly $500,000 to fund four elections investigators at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation

What they’re saying: Danny Kanso, policy analyst with the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said Kemp’s priorities are likely to find bipartisan support and that the state “has the resources to make progress this session.”

  • Democratic state lawmakers hammered Kemp once again for not spending the money to expand Medicaid.
  • Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams’ campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, countered that the national Democratic leaders who passed the American Rescue Plan “deserve credit” for the state’s ability to make these investments, not Kemp.

🤓 Go deeper: Nerd out and read the governor’s full budget report here.

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