For The Record

Top Georgia leaders pitch plans to tap state treasury to spend on police

By: - July 22, 2021 8:47 pm

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan introduced Thursday a $250 million tax credit plan to allow residents and corporations to write checks directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new officers and provide better pay and training. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

The sharp uptick in violent crime around Atlanta is prompting state leaders to create new ways to pay for more police officers on the streets and provide other resources for law enforcement.

Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan Thursday said he would ask the General Assembly to create a $250 million tax credit program for donations made directly to local law enforcement agencies to hire additional officers and increase officer’s pay and training.  

Duncan proposes to allow individuals and corporations to receive 100% dollar-for-dollar statewide tax deduction. It is now the third crime-fighting spending proposal state leaders unveiled within a week.

“It should be no surprise that every state leader is concerned with the exponential rise in crime here in Georgia, especially in our Capital city,” Duncan said. “Rising crime is affecting individuals, businesses, and Georgia families, and combatting this problem will not be accomplished by one solution alone. My goal is to bolster law enforcement agencies across our state by giving each community the tools necessary to prevent and stop crime.” 

But former Democratic House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said on Twitter letting people directly write checks to their police department and sheriff’s office is problematic.

“Honest question. Does this mean that someone can get a tax credit for a kickback payment?” Trammell wrote in a tweet. “Seems like this proposal hasn’t been thought out much. Nothing good about legalizing corruption.”

Georgia Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston are also proposing to use millions of dollars in state money to support law enforcement. At the same time, they are ripping into Atlanta’s leadership for its violent crime rate as they elevate the issue in a ramp up to the 2022 campaign season.

Ralston announced Wednesday he wants the state to spend $75 million to reinforce local policing.

His plans call for using $25 million to give $1,000 one-time bonuses for local police officers and sheriff’s deputies; $3 million to hire 20 new state troopers to patrol in metro Atlanta; $10 million to increase salaries for prosecutors and public defenders and $20 million for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Ralston is proposing $7 million to provide more mental health crisis beds through the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

The spending proposals follow a record increase in revenue in Georgia, with the state reporting a $3.2 billion jump in tax collections for the year that ended in June. 

But it’s not just the GOP with grand plans to lower the crime statistics. 

On July 16, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a $70 million initiative recommended by her Anti-Violence Advisory Council. 

That funding would help hire 250 police officers, create an office focused on reducing violence, expand the use of the department’s camera network system, install 10,000 street lights and more.

Republican officials say the rising crime levels can be traced to criticism of police they said lowered officer morale and resulted in fewer officers patrolling the streets and rising gang activity. The Georgia Sheriff’s Association and Department of Public Safety leaders also supported the low morale theory during Monday’s meeting of the state House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee.

During that hearing, Kemp promised to call for a special fall legislative session where he’ll call for a focus on crime reduction and measures to institute better pay for state troopers and restrict local governments from easing prosecution policies.

The GOP’s new crime-fighting priorities are a departure from the bipartisan approach to criminal justice reform the past couple of years with the overhaul of the state’s citizen’s arrest statute, the passage of Georgia’s first hate crimes law and early probation termination.

Democratic lawmakers introduced bills during the 2021 legislative session mandating officers wear body cameras, banning the use of chokehold techniques and more, but none gained traction with the Republican majority.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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