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Sen. Ben Watson: Economic forecast here still bright
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson, Guest Columnist.

Members of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committees returned to the Georgia State Capitol for the annual “budget week” which typically begins the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Governor Brian Kemp gave opening remarks that highlighted his budget recommendations for the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets, which will become legislation that will ultimately guide our state’s spending. 

Throughout the week, we also heard directly from state agency leaders regarding their budgetary requests, as well as the state economist, who provided a comprehensive overview of Georgia’s economic forecast for this year.

Our state’s constitution requires that the General Assembly must pass a balanced state budget. After reviewing Gov. Kemp’s budget proposals presented this week, the General Assembly will begin drafting two budget bills: the Amended Fiscal Year 2023 (AFY 2023) budget and the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) budget. First, the amended budget directs spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year and uses a more accurate estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained. Based on updated revenue estimates, the AFY 2023 budget will include approximately $2.3 billion in additional revenue that our state can utilize over the next six months.

Next, the FY 2024 budget will determine state spending for the entire upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1, and this full budget is set at a revenue estimate of $32.4 billion. The governor’s version of the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets includes a range of budgetary items that prioritize the required state spending on education and health care, as well as other important government agencies.

I am thrilled that due to the positive economic outcome for our state and anticipated future receipts, the governor recommended allocating $1 billion in undesignated funds from the AFY 2023 budget to provide a one-time tax refund to every eligible taxpayer in our state; these one-time tax refunds would range from $250 for single filers to $500 for joint filers. Furthermore, Gov. Kemp also announced his plans to create the one-time Homeowner Tax Relief Grants program using $1.1 billion in the AFY 2023 budget.

Every eligible homeowner would have a chance to receive a $20,000 exemption for their assessed home value on their 2023 property tax bill, and the governor estimates that this exemption would result in an average savings of $500. I support returning money to taxpayers versus increasing and expanding the government budgets.

As Chairman of both the Health and Human Services Committee and the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Health Appropriations, I know that the governor’s budgetary recommendations seek to improve health care access and affordability in Georgia through a few different measures. First, the governor’s FY 2024 proposal includes $52 million to implement the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program to expand health insurance access to uninsured residents; this program was established through the Patients First Act, legislation which was passed by the General Assembly in recent years.

The governor also seeks to further support the state’s reinsurance program using $92 million in both budget proposals. The reinsurance program has reduced premiums by an average of 12.4 percent for the 2023 reinsurance plan compared to premiums without the program, allowing participants to see an average annual premium reduction of $995 or $83 per month.

As we progress through the session, I will keep you updated on the budget legislation. Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session. As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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