Kemp Signs $36.1 Billion State Budget

Dave Williams

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

Gov. Brian Kemp signed what he called an “historic” $36.1 billion state budget Tuesday containing healthy raises for state employees and public school teachers.

The fiscal 2025 budget, which takes effect July 1, represents an increase of $3.7 billion over the fiscal 2024 budget the General Assembly adopted last spring, including record spending on education and mental health and significant increases for public safety.

“This budget is the biggest demonstration of our priorities,” Kemp said during a ceremony inside the Georgia Capitol. “Because we refuse to spend beyond our means, we’re able to invest in these core areas while cutting taxes at the same time.”

The budget provides 4% cost-of-living raises for most state and university system employees, with an additional $3,000 for workers in state agencies suffering high turnover rates, including law enforcement officers and welfare workers. Teachers will get a pay raise of $2,500, bringing the total to $9,500 since Kemp took office in 2019.

Addressing both education and public safety, the spending plan earmarks $108 million in grants to upgrade security on public school campuses. Every public school in Georgia will get a grant of $45,000.

“We want to and we will keep our children safe,” said Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington.

Also in the public safety arena, the budget provides $10.7 million for a technology upgrade inside state prisons to head off a flood of cellphones and other contraband being smuggled in to inmates. Another $4.8 million will go to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to launch a gang task force in Columbus.

The budget kicks in additional funding for a number of programs already underway, including $20 million for a state reinsurance plan begun last year that aims to hold down health coverage premiums and $6 million for the Rural Workforce Housing initiative, also launched in 2023.

“Every Georgian should be able to live in the same community where they work,” Kemp said.

On the mental health front, the budget puts $16.5 million toward a network of behavioral health crisis centers across the state.

Despite the record spending, Kemp and the General Assembly also are continuing to reduce taxes, which they can afford to do thanks to a $16 billion budget surplus. The legislature signed off this year on the governor’s proposal to accelerate a state income tax cut lawmakers adopted last year.

Altogether, the governor and General Assembly have returned more than $5 billion to Georgia taxpayers, Kemp said.