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State Agencies Get OK To Hike Spending

Stage agencies will get to ask for more money next year for the first time since fiscal 2020.

Rick Dunn, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB), informed state agency heads in a memo Wednesday that they will be allowed to request spending “enhancements” of up to 3% in their fiscal 2024 mid-year and fiscal 2025 budget proposals.

Dunn, who joined the OPB this month after heading the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, cited a Georgia economy that continues to exceed expectations despite predictions by multiple economists of a recession this year.

“The underlying strength of the state economy will enable us to continue to meet projected spending obligations required to support our growing population, even with the impact of current and upcoming tax cuts … and other revenue adjustments,” Dunn wrote.

Dunn went on to praise agency leaders for steering their departments through economic uncertainty of the last three years that prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to order them to hold the line on spending.

“Agencies quickly pivoted their service delivery model to ensure citizens still received critical state services while simultaneously being asked to reduce budgets due to the severe economic downturn caused by COVID-19,” he wrote.

While Republican state lawmakers have praised Kemp for conservative budgeting practices during the last three years, Democrats and advocates for low-income Georgians have criticized the governor for using a growing budget surplus to push state income tax rebates and reductions in the tax rate through the GOP-controlled General Assembly.

“Many of Georgia’s systems are failing to meet citizens’ needs,” Staci Fox, president and CEO of the Atlantabased Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said Wednesday. “It’s not a surplus unless you’ve met your fiscal obligations.”

Dunn’s memo also asked state agency heads to look for opportunities through greater efficiencies to reduce their fiscal 2025 budgets by 1%, even as he gave them the leeway to request more spending.

Agency budget submissions to the OPB are due Sept. 8. Kemp will present his spending recommendations to the General Assembly in January.

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