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Speaker: State continues to lessen income tax burden
tax burden
Rep. Jon Burns, the Georgia speaker of the House, left, talks with former state representative and former news anchor Sonny Dixon. Photo by Pat Donahue

By Pat Donahue, Coastal Courier.

GLENNVILLE – After shouting the words “sine die” two weeks late into the March 28 evening, state Rep. Jon Burns has been reflecting on what the General Assembly accomplished in its recent session.

Burns, the Effingham Republican who is the state speaker of the House, emphasized the record budget lawmakers passed, a $36.1 billion spending plan that also cuts state income taxes, the veteran legislator pointed out.

“We’ve continued to invest to make sure health care is funded, education is funded, and there are raises for our state employees,” he said at Wayne Dasher’s annual law enforcement appreciation event. “The other thing we’re very proud of is we continue to return money to Georgians by cutting the tax rate to 5.39%. We’re pretty proud of that. We continue to make sure we’re good stewards of the public’s money – we continue reducing the income tax rate and make good investments.”

Included in the budget is a 4% cost-of-living adjustment for most state employees, and pay increases of $2,500 for teachers.

The fiscal year 2025 budget is more than $3 billion larger than the FY24 budget that expires this summer. It also includes more than $1 billion for building projects that normally are paid for through bonds.

Burns, who served on the state transportation board before his election to the state House of Representatives, also noted the budget has $1.5 billion set aside for transportation at local levels.

“One and a half billion dollars going back to counties is all very powerful and positive,” he said.

Lawmakers also gave mental health services and care a boost in the budget and with other legislation, Burns said. A measure introduced in the Senate, easing the student loan burden for certain mental health and substance abuse professionals, now awaits the governor’s signature after approval from both chambers.

“As in the past, we had a real focus on mental health,” Burns said, “and we passed several issues that will help with the strength of availability of mental health in Georgia.”

The first House speaker to come from southeast Georgia since George L. Smith, Burns also pointed to other legislation he was glad made it through to the governor’s desk.

“The other thing was public safety,” he said. “We had a focus and passed prosecutorial oversight, which is going to strengthen the work that our prosecutors do. That certainly supports the work of public safety officers.”

Continued efforts on tort reform led to several pieces of legislation getting passed, Burns added. The Effingham County native and resident said the state is taking a strategic look at transportation infrastructure across the state.

“There is certainly a focus on growth areas like around Hyundai and around the ports and around Atlanta,” he said.

While a Senate bill aimed at allowing – and taxing – online sports gambling in the state didn’t meet House passage in time, Georgia continues to attract sports wagering operations. PrizePicks, a daily fantasy sports betting venue, announced moving its operations from one part of Atlanta to another, and intends to hire 1,000 more workers in the next few years.

“That was pretty interesting,” Burns said. “We have several of them located up there.”

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