Gov. Kemp signs Georgia’s $25.9 billion budget

FILE - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (AP Photo/Ron Harris, Pool, File) (Ron Harris)

ATLANTA – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a $25.9 billion budget Tuesday, one day before the start of the new fiscal year.

The budget promises sharp cuts but avoids unpaid employee furloughs and layoffs.

“To be honest, today is bittersweet. Yes, this budget reflects our values as a state. ... This budget prioritizes education, healthcare, and public safety,” Kemp said in a statement. “But this budget speaks to some of the hard choices made by state leaders to streamline and innovate. While we were able to avoid draconian cuts, getting this budget to balance was hard. These are challenging times, and the budget reflects that reality.”

The state will spend $25.9 billion of its own revenue, a 10% cut from what was originally expected. The cuts are sharp, but had once been projected to be as high as 14%. Kemp also allowed lawmakers to spend $250 million out of the state’s savings account and increased projected tobacco tax revenue by $50 million. That and an improving economic outlook led to smaller reductions.

Combined with $15.1 billion in federal money and $11.4 billion in non-tax revenue, Georgia’s government plans to spend a total of $52.5 billion in the fiscal year that starts Wednesday.

Kemp had to revise his revenue estimate, which sets a ceiling on what lawmakers can spend, after state revenues tumbled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Republican governor’s new figure is $2.2 billion less than he projected in January.