Georgia lawmakers focus on budget cuts as potential recession looms

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ATLANTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Georgia lawmakers met Monday in Atlanta for the 2020 legislative session.

Middle Georgia lawmakers say they’re preparing for a recession. Therefore, the main focus for this year’s legislative session — budget cuts.

“Economists have predicted a 50/50 chance of a recession,” said Milledgeville Rep. Rick Williams. “I know our rainy day fund is at about $3 billion. So we’re in better shape than we’ve been in a long time.” 

Budget cuts in Middle Georgia

Governor Brian Kemp is pushing for budget cuts.

“[We expect] a 10 percent overall cut, and where do you cut that money from?” asked Macon Rep. James Beverly. “They’re anticipating revenue increases. That didn’t happen.” 

With major budget cuts comes concerns for funding agencies, or getting state funding for projects like expanding Middle Georgia Regional Airport’s runways.

Macon Rep. Dale Washburn is proposing a bill to receive state funding for Macon’s airport.

To receive a Federal Aviation grant, the airport needs state and local funding support.

“We’re hoping there is a certain amount of money appropriated for airports in the Department of Transportation budget, so we are looking at trying to get some of that money committed to our project in Macon,” Washburn said.

Lawmakers say the expansion would be an economy booster.

“Expanding that runway just drives Macon into a stratosphere over the next 10, 12 years,” Beverly said.

OLOST vote

Also coming up for a vote during the session is Other Local Option Sales Tax, which will increase sales tax by a penny.

“A portion of it would go to public safety, fire department, and sheriff’s office,” Washburn said. “The sheriff’s office being very important to us. We do have a crime issue in Bibb County.” 

Also, Beverly is skeptical about OLOST.

“If it’s not intentional about using the money to sure up neighborhoods that are impoverished or in margins to the degree we can do that through commercial development, okay then maybe, but I remain somewhat squeamish about adding another penny to people in an environment when they don’t have tremendous opportunity,” Beverly said.

Washburn says lawmakers will start budget talks next week.