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State lawmakers hear Kemp's budget pitch while state economist urges caution

 Georgia's chief economist, Jeffrey Dorfman, speaks to state lawmakers at a budget hearing on Jan. 17, 2023.
Georgia's chief economist, Jeffrey Dorfman, speaks to state lawmakers at a budget hearing on Jan. 17, 2023.

Legislators on the joint appropriations committee kicked off three days of budget hearings yesterday with a virtual visit from Governor Brian Kemp, who was in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum.

Kemp said the state must confront a growing need for housing in order to continue economic growth.

"This is also the biggest challenge to us - maintaining our rank as the best place to do business," Kemp said. "Therefore my budget will allocate $35.7 million to establish a rural workforce housing fund. This will allow us to partner directly with local governments in developing sites across the state to address workforce housing needs that come with these major economic development announcements.

Kemp also reiterated plans to distribute surplus funds in the form of pay raises for state employees and tax rebates.

Lawmakers working on the state’s budget also heard from the state’s chief economist, who injected a note of caution Tuesday as the General Assembly began reviewing Governor Kemp's 2024 budget request.

Jeffrey Dorfman told members of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations committees that more than half of the state's record $6.6 billion surplus was built on a huge increase in capital gains tax payments that is likely not to be repeated.

He added that typically volatile corporate tax payments are also uncertain with only 2% of Georgia businesses accounting for 96% of the record, $2.5 billion dollars that the state collected in corporate income taxes last year.

But, Dorfman said, Georgia's economy remained strong over halfway through fiscal 2023.

In addition to hearing about the governor’s priorities and the state’s economic outlook, legislators also took a somewhat deep dive into mental health of Georgians, especially children.

Leaders of Georgia’s main health-care agencies told legislators how they plan to address the challenges Georgians face as well as how much those plans will cost.

The Director of Georgia's Department of Family and Children's Services told lawmakers about the problem of hoteling, which refers to boarding foster-care children and youth in hotels or offices because appropriate placements cannot be found for them, usually due to complicated behavioral health issues.

Another agency head spoke about steps they’re taking to stem the flow of children into foster care in the first place.

State budget hearings continue Wednesday and Thursday.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!
Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.