Andrew Allison, Acting Director
Kessarin Horvath, Sr. Communications Associate
Week Ten Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
The Senate’s hiatus from the legislative session due to COVID-19 has ended and the General Assembly has officially returned to the Gold Dome to finish our remaining legislative days. The truth is the work never stopped. Our efforts to continue to make Georgia a great place to live, work and do business remain as pertinent as ever, if not more, and we must work as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
The item with the most attention will always be the state budget. With the passing of our good friend and my mentor, Sen. Jack Hill (R – Reidsville), I have been thrust right into the middle of handling it. Sen. Hill was a true statesman, a man of incredible kindness and wisdom, and a remarkable figure in South Georgia. As Chair of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Hill dedicated much of his life to balancing our state’s budget and as a result, he humbly led our state to economic success. Sen. Hill has left an enormous mark on the Senate and I am grateful for the time I spent with him, learning from his incredible expertise and insight. During his time this session, he worked tirelessly on our state’s 2020 and 2021 fiscal year budgets and I hope to honor his legacy, as we continue his work.
By now, you’ve likely heard of our budget predicament. Revenues are drastically less than last year, down 36.2% in one month alone. Governor Brian P. Kemp’s decision to reopen Georgia’s economy helped soften that blow and save additional disaster last month. As Georgians rushed back to work, our losses fell to just over 10%. Unemployment levels, which surpassed 12% during the month of April, have now fallen to just under 9.7%. Things are improving, but we still have a big hole. We stayed in session six days last week to address this issue and others.
At the start of our Appropriations process, we had asked all state agencies to create proposals that address a 14% reduction in budget allocations to accommodate the expected revenue shortfall. Due to the positive news above and the Governor’s reopening orders, the Governor now suggests we may only need to implement 11% cuts. These reductions will be considerable and challenging, but they will also help Georgia get back on the road to economic prosperity. The Senate has since then, drafted a piece of legislation that outlines our recommendations for the 2021 Fiscal Year budget. We passed a proposal out of the Senate Friday morning that placed 13% of our state dollars into community health, almost 9% into public safety, 8% into human services and behavioral health, and a whopping 54% into education. Because of the Governor’s drop in his expected revenue cut, the Senate was able to add back funding in several areas and I’ve included a chart of this below.
Our office continues to work diligently with many of you having unemployment insurance concerns. The sheer volume of individuals making these claims has overwhelmed employees, who are now working 16-17 hour days just to get these claims filed. This is not an excuse and provides no comfort to those of you waiting and in need to pay your mortgage, rent and grocery bills, but I did want to provide some context for the wait and let you to know our office stands ready to continue our assistance to you and our families.
As always, if I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to reach out. As of this time, we expect the legislative session to end Friday, June 26th.
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Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.