Jan 18, 2023 - Politics

The state of Georgia's economy, post-pandemic

Illustration of the Georgia State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Georgia's pandemic-era revenue hot streak is over, but things don't look dire. That's the high level from state economist Jeffrey Dorfman, who spoke to state lawmakers Tuesday.

Why it matters: Dorfman’s revenue estimates drive the size of the state budget each year.

Driving the news: Dorfman is projecting what he calls a "conservative" figure for state revenues for the fiscal year 2024 at nearly $32.5 billion — roughly on par with the current fiscal year 2023. That's down from a pandemic high of $37 billion last year.

The big picture: The state's record-high budget surplus last year ($6.6 billion) is also not likely to repeat itself.

  • Dorfman told lawmakers more than half of that came from capital gains taxes paid after business and stock investment sales during the hot pandemic market, which are unlikely to reappear.

The intrigue: The size of Georgia's workforce remains a headwind for Georgia's growth, Dorfman said. The state added nearly 170,000 new jobs since the start of the pandemic, but with low unemployment, employers are struggling to find new workers.

  • "We need people if we want to keep growing," Dorfman said.
  • And those people need places to live.

What we're watching: Gov. Brian Kemp has made workforce development housing a focus of his budget proposal, including nearly $36 million to create a rural workforce housing fund to partner with local governments to build new sites.

Of note: The governor's proposal features other new investments too, including a $2,000 pay raise for state employees and teachers and restoring funding for the HOPE scholarship back to 100% of college tuition for high schoolers with eligible GPAs.

  • It's the first time the state has done that in more than a decade.

What's next: State lawmakers will now put their own mark on the budget. But the revenue estimate is one thing they cannot change.


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