ATLANTA — Governor Brian Kemp is proposing the Peach State provide a $250 to $500 tax credit to Georgians. During the annual Eggs and Issues Legislative Preview Wednesday, Kemp joined several other leaders in the state to touch on economic success and look forward to the future.
Kemp said his administration intends to provide a $250 refund credit to single tax filers and $500 to those who are filing jointly. The $1.6 billion in income taxes is from a surplus of $2.2 billion from Georgia's last budget year.
Fearing revenue would tank amid the COVID pandemic, Georgia lawmakers cut 10% from the spending plan while developing the budget for the 2021 fiscal year in the summer of 2020. Once it became clear revenue wouldn't plummet, the state government then restored hundreds of millions of dollars back into its education budget. However, other agencies across the Peach State were still under a 10% cut, leaving a surplus of funds from the previous fiscal year.
Lawmakers were left with extra cash to plan for 2022 fiscal year. Now, Kemp has now made a decision on what to do with that left over money.
“Last fiscal year, because we kept Georgia open and fought alongside you all in this room to keep businesses and communities afloat, the state collected a record budget surplus. I believe that when government takes in more money than it needs, surplus funds should be sent back to the hardworking men and women who keep our state moving forward," Kemp said during the address.
According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the 2022 fiscal year budget still leaves several state agencies underfunded by millions compared to pre-pandemic numbers. There are cuts to spending in Pre-K through 12th grade, higher education, health services and programs, and the Departments of Human Services and Labor among others.
Kemp is in the middle of a difficult primary campaign as he seeks re-election, as well-known opponents like Stacey Abrams and former Senator David Perdue have also thrown their hats in the ring to become Georgia’s governor.
He's been on a roll recently, penning a letter encouraging a $5,000 pay bump and other benefits for state employees and pushing for a new law that would loosen the state's handgun requirements in just the last week.
Kemp said he now wants to "empower" people in the state using the surplus of last fiscal year's funds to provide a couple hundred dollars in tax return credit for Georgia residents.
"As Georgians seek to recover from the economic impact of a global pandemic, we as state leaders should do everything we can to empower families to keep more of their money in their own wallets," Kemp said.
Included in that legislation is to exempt retirement income for veterans in the state, and ensure that at least 90% of tuition for HOPE Scholarship recipients is covered by the program, according to the governor.
"Because that is your money. Not the government's," Kemp said.