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Sen. Ben Watson’s Weekly: Jan. 25, 2024
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Ben Watson

Ga. State Senator District 1

The most important assignment that we have in the Georgia General Assembly is the state budget. This past week, 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. Throughout the week we heard directly from state agency leaders regarding their budgetary requests, as well as from the State’s economist, who provided a comprehensive overview of Georgia’s economic forecast for this year.

The individual state agencies were given the opportunity to explain, via the Governor’s budget, their specific needs and wants.

As your Senator, and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee Chair of Health, I take the budget process very seriously. Over the last five years we have returned $5 billion directly to Georgia taxpayers through personal income tax refunds, suspension of the gas tax and property tax relief. We are going to continue this trend.

The personal income tax rate had been six percent, and we have reduced it via steps to 5.75 with 2022 legislation. We are going to accelerate the reduction, which was supposed to be down to 5.39% this year, and we are going to cut it further to 4.99%. This further reduction will save taxpayers $300 million per year beginning this tax year.

In his budget request for the fiscal year 2024-2025 budget, Governor Brian Kemp made a recommendation to the Board of Regents for design, construction, and equipment of a dental school on Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus here in Savannah. He has asked us to fund that project at a cost of $178 million. This is in addition to last year’s creation of a medical school on the Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus here in Savannah. We will have 40 medical students that start in July of this year, 2024, and will be at full capacity in four years at 160 students, with the possibility for even more in the future.

Governor Kemp has additionally requested several infrastructure projects to assist the Hyundai meta-plant site.

That facility will employ over 8,000 people, not including all the additional suppliers’ new facilities that are being built in the area. I had previously announced that Georgia Environmental Financing Authority provided a $60 million low interest rate loan to Bryan County for wastewater management at the Hyundai meta-plant. Governor Kemp, through conservative fiscal management of our budget, has announced a $1.5 billion additional investment by the Georgia Department of Transportation to maintain and enhance our roads and accelerate construction on “shovel-ready” projects. These projects will produce, as Gov.

Kemp said, “no single dollar of debt.” In fact, we are saving taxpayer millions by paying down existing debt and not further adding to our state’s fiscal burden.

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.

Sen. Ben Watson is a member of the Georgia State Senate, representing District 1.

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