by Nyamekye Daniel
As lawmakers convene in Atlanta on Monday for the start of a new legislative session, Gov. Brian Kemp wants to give state employees $5,000 raises and increase their benefits.
Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Kemp told state agencies in August not to propose spending increases for the next two years as a safeguard against uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to state agencies Friday, Kemp said the state has recovered better than expected and has more flexibility because of previous cuts and a smaller government workforce.
“State government positions must remain competitive with other government entities to attract and retain a talented and capable workforce,” Kemp said. “I have consistently heard from all of you regarding the need to improve state employee pay to reduce turnover and save the state resources needed to continuously hire and train new staff.”
The governor’s spending plan would add the $5,000 raises for full-time employees to the 2022 budget and make a permanent $5,000 cost-of-living adjustment in fiscal year 2023, which starts July 1. If the proposal becomes law, it will be the first cost-of-living adjustment for Georgia employees in 14 years, Kemp said.
Kemp’s proposal also would increase the employer match for 401(k) contributions to a maximum of 9% and allow employees to withdraw up to 40 hours of eligible leave pay each year.
State government employees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2009, and eligible for retirement benefits through the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia State Employees’ Pension and Savings Plan are automatically enrolled in the 401(k) plan at a pre-tax contribution rate of 5%. The state currently matches up to 3%.
The state has more than 68,000 employees, according to the Georgia Department of Administrative Services.
House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, said Monday the House would start budget discussions next week. Republican lawmakers said they intend to push for more money for public safety and mental health.
The governor will announce all of his priorities Wednesday during this annual state of the state speech. Democrats also are expected to announce their legislative agenda Wednesday.
Kemp had instructed all state government offices to reduce spending by 4% during the amended fiscal year 2020 budget process and 10% from the fiscal year 2021 budget. However, during the 2021 amended fiscal year budget process, the state restored 60% of its cuts to education.
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Nyamekye Daniel is a reporter at The Center Square. She has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel’s work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.
Photo “Brian Kemp” by Brian Kemp.