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Kemp inks $34.2 billion state budget

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a $32.4 billion fiscal 2024 state budget Friday that provides pay raises of $4,000 to $6,000 for law enforcement officers and $2,000 increases for other state workers, teachers, and university system employees.

The budget, which takes effect July 1, increases state spending by $2.2 billion, or 7.4%, over the budget the General Assembly adopted last spring. The spending plan fully funds Georgia’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) k-12 student funding formula with a record $13.1 billion in state dollars and covers 100% of tuition for Georgia’s HOPE scholars for the first time since 2011.

“This budget improves the quality of and access to education all across the board,” Kemp said during a signing ceremony held at the massive construction site of a Hyundai Motor Group electric vehicles manufacturing plant near Savannah.

Wearing an orange safety vest and white hard hat, Kemp used the construction backdrop to highlight Georgia’s economic development progress, including announcements of the four largest projects in state history in just the past year, including the Hyundai plant.

As the budget went through the General Assembly, lawmakers added $47 million to the governor’s request for mental health services, bringing the total to $117 million.

The spending plan also includes $52 million to launch Georgia Pathways, Kemp’s limited Medicaid expansion that – unlike the federal version – includes a work requirement for enrollees.

The budget also funds construction, planning and/or design of 24 buildings, primarily projects on university and technical college campuses.

Also during Friday’s ceremony, Kemp signed legislation extending through 2026 a state sales tax exemption for “competitive projects of regional significance,” including the Hyundai plant. Kemp said most of those large economic development projects are located outside of metro Atlanta.

Separate from the signing ceremony, Kemp signed a bill Friday creating an oversight board, the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission (PAQC) to investigate complaints lodged against Georgia prosecutors and hold hearings. Senate Bill 92 passed the Republicancontrolled General Assembly along party lines.

During the legislative debate on the bill, GOP lawmakers complained that district attorneys in some parts of the state have been soft on crime.

“As hardworking law enforcement officers routinely put their lives on the line to investigate, confront, and arrest criminal offenders, I won’t stand idly by as they’re met with resistance from rogue or incompetent prosecutors who refuse to uphold the law,” Kemp said Friday. “The creation of the PACQ will help hold prosecutors driven [more] by out-of-touch politics than commitment to their responsibilities accountable and make our communities safer.”

A coalition of criminal justice reform and voting rights advocates opposed the bill as a blow to democracy.

“This anti-democratic legislation creates a state commission with powers to investigate, sanction, and remove duly elected local prosecutors,” the group Progress Georgia wrote in a statement issued Friday. “This legislation is part of a coordinated antidemocratic power grab and attempts to undo the will of voters.

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