Georgia Recorder reports for Gold Dome duty

Gov. Brian Kemp reminds the lawmakers and lobbyists gathered at Sunday's Wild Hog Supper that agriculture is Georgia's No. 1 industry as the legislative feeding frenzy begins. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

When Georgia’s 236 state lawmakers closed out the last legislative session on April 2, they tossed copies of bills in the air and sang Sine Die, Latin for adjourning with no appointed day of resumption. Now, that day of resumption is here.

New Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler made an appearance at Sunday night’s Wild Hog Supper. Here she is chatting with Danah Craft, the director of the Georgia Food Bank Association. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Georgia Recorder’s news operation was built for this moment. Since our Aug. 6 debut, we’ve dug into and explained how state government works — and especially how it uses taxpayers’ money. We took you into the inner sanctum of the state House’s top budget expert after Gov. Brian Kemp ordered across-the-board 4% spending cuts. We told you about friction between Kemp and lawmakers frustrated by his demand that state agencies keep details of belt-tightening plans quiet.

On Thursday, the governor is scheduled to unveil his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, which is expected to set a new record for state spending to provide more roads, schools and services for Georgia’s growing population.

Will Kemp chip away at spending with a chisel or blow things up? Does he really plan to squeeze another 6% out of the budget that starts in July? If so, how? Will teachers get the $2,000 second installment on the $5,000 pay raise Kemp promised? What about higher salaries for other state employees? Will the state Environmental Protection Division get the resources it needs to protect the public from polluters? And will the state agency charged with looking out for Georgians with mental illnesses be forced to retrench to an extent that people will wind up in an emergency room?

I and the seasoned journalists working alongside me — Jill Nolin, Stanley Dunlap and Maggie Lee, who’s joining us for the session — will answer these questions and many, many more over the 40 days of official business for the General Assembly.

We’ll cover how lawmakers will capitalize on their chance to reshape the governor’s current $27.5 billion budget, as well as to make their mark on the new one. Will legislators drop the top income tax rate to 5.5% from 5.75%, draining $550 million from the state treasury at a time when revenues are wobbly? Will lawmakers listen to criticism from the state auditor and pull back some of the nearly $1 billion in tax credits Georgia hands out to movie and television companies?

Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter from the Georgia Recorder home page, following us on Twitter and Facebook and keeping up with the headlines on georgiarecorder.com. If you like what we’re doing, please donate to support our work.

We look forward to delivering compelling news about state policy and politics to you over the course of the session. But I’ll give you a warning made famous by the film industry that lawmakers soon will be discussing: Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

John McCosh
John McCosh, Editor-in-Chief, is a seasoned writer and editor with decades of experience in journalism and government public affairs. His skills were forged in Georgia newsrooms, where he was a business and investigative reporter, editor and bureau chief, and expanded his experience during years in nonprofit and corporate communications roles. For more than a decade at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McCosh investigated state and local government officials and operations. He also tracked regional growth and development with a focus on metro Atlanta’s population-related problems, including traffic congestion, air pollution and water quality. He first learned the power of public records to unlock information when he was a commercial real estate reporter at the Atlanta Business Chronicle. McCosh is a board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation and active in the Georgia State Signal Alumni Group, which advises student journalists.