Georgia lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol on June 15, more than three months after they abruptly suspended the 2020 legislative session when fears of COVID-19 disease spreading in Georgia suddenly seized the public’s attention.
House Speaker David Ralston previously favored reconvening June 11, while Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan initially preferred resuming May 24. Today they both signed a letter announcing the agreement to resume the 40-day session on the third Monday of this month.
“I appreciate the Senate recognizing that we should reconvene the session in June as I proposed,” Ralston wrote. “I believe this will enable us to best serve the people of our great state. Accordingly, I believe reconvening on June 15 at 10 a.m. is in order.”
Lawmakers’ top priority is to pass a 2021 budget to continue funding the government beyond July 1.
That budget will contain deep cuts from the $28.1 billion version passed by the House before lawmakers adjourned in mid-March. State department heads already started presenting plans to trim 14% of their budgets to adjust for the steep drop in state revenues, but Gov. Brian Kemp eased some of the pain this week when he announced department heads’ target is now an 11% cut.
“Our state is positioned to weather this storm better than most,” he said. “The foundation of our economy is strong and ready for consumer confidence to return. However, as a small business owner and former executive agency leader, I know that any cut can be difficult, but thanks to conservative leadership over the last decade, I’m hopeful that our state will be able to avoid the draconian cuts and measures that many others across the country will be forced to make.”
The reductions are possible thanks to “reassuring signs of fiscal resilience,” Kemp said in a video message directed at agency heads. He didn’t mention a need to tap into Georgia’s healthy reserve fund, which held about $3 billion before the public health and economic crisis struck.
Kemp said he will soon send updated revenue estimates to the House and Senate appropriations chairs.