ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers suspended the state’s legislative calendar Wednesday for more than a week. It’s an unusual move designed to fix a budget impasse.
And, it’s because lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp can’t agree on how to handle belt-tightening needed to pass a state budget.
Although the economy is prosperous, lawmakers cut taxes last year, decreasing revenues. Some, including House Speaker David Ralston, want to cut taxes again this year.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kemp wants to give raises to school teachers to fulfill a campaign promise. Kemp has proposed cutting the budget of the state crime lab, as well as health and other state services – cuts which Ralston says in a letter to House members, “could have serious policy ramifications and impact thousands of our fellow Georgians.”
The governor fired back at Ralston. His spokeswoman Candice Broce wrote, "The governor does not need a lesson in conservatism from a man who brokered a deal with Democrats just last week for political gamesmanship.”
That refers to a short-lived measure Ralston briefly backed to change the special US Senate election for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler.
It’s a head-spinning controversy between two of the state’s leading Republicans, at a state capitol where the GOP rules both legislative chambers.
"I’m a little disappointed. I respect where we’re going. I just hope we can get together and resolve this thing pretty quick," said state Rep. Emory Dunahoo (R-Gillsville).
The legislature's longest-tenured member said it last happened around the great recession in 2007-08.
State Rep. Calvin Smyre (R-Columbus) said putting the legislature on hiatus now "is appropriate in light of the fact that the budget has been elevated and it’s something we have to deal with."
The dust-up means the legislature – which might have adjourned in late March – probably won’t adjourn until sometime in mid-April.
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