Capitol Update: Week 2
The General Assembly devoted last week entirely to hearings by the Joint House Senate Appropriations Committees from State Agency heads. In addition to budget presentations on the Amended FY 2021 Budget and the FY 2022 Budget, they also heard from the state’s economist, Jeffrey Dorfman. The economic numbers in Georgia are very positive. Georgia had 4.62 million employed prior to the pandemic and recession. While that number had dropped down by approximately 500,000 in April 2020, we are now are back up with 4.52 million employed Georgians.
The personal income of Georgians is up .9% compared to last year, and both sales tax and income tax revenues are also up. Retail sales have bounced back, while individual savings rates went from 8% to 35% with the federal financial relief program. The savings rate is holding steady now at 12%.
Credit card debt is down while credit scores are up. Rental income reported by landlords is also up. The bottom line is that Georgia’s economy is well poised to bounce back quickly from this recession once this pandemic is under control and vaccines have reached herd immunity levels.
The General Assembly is moving quickly to pass the Amended FY 21 Budget and the House Appropriations Subcommittees are expected to pass their budgets on Tuesday, January 26. This will tee up a vote by the full House sometime this week. To view budget documents or the budget hearings, click here.
Georgia DOT Budget Presentation
Commissioner Russell McMurry’s presentation on the Amended FY21 Budget included a true-up that added an additional $159M from the motor fuel excise tax and an additional $34M from non-excise revenue for the department. This brings the state portion of GDOT’s budget to just over $2B for FY21. The additional funding will be plugged back into Capital Construction ($52M), Capital Maintenance ($95M), LMIG ($16M) and Routine Maintenance ($16M).
GDOT is also expecting an additional $322M from the Federal Highway fund which will be put to use in Capital Construction and Maintenance.
For FY22, there is an additional $216M in excise revenue and an additional $20M in non-excise revenue bringing the state portion of the Department’s budget to almost $2.1B. The funding will be allocated, as in the Amended FY21 budget, mainly to Capital but the department is also adding back funds to hire and retain employees as the department is currently down about 350 staff members from the target of 4,000.
The Governor’s bond package is robust again for FY 2020 and includes the $100M bridge package and $10M to upgrade short-line railways to Class II Standards. Most of the rail money will be for bridge reconstruction and restoration.
New Transportation Committee Chairs
In the Senate, Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) has been named the new Senate Transportation Committee Chairman. Newly elected Senators Clint Dixon (R-Buford) and Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas) will be joining the committee. You can see the full list of committee members here.
The House Transportation Committee also has new leadership after former Chairman Kevin Tanner left the chamber to run for Congress. Speaker Ralston has tapped Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) as the new House Transportation Committee Chairman. Newly elected Rep. Brad Thomas P.E. (R-Holly Springs) will also be joining the committee. You can see the full list of committee members here.
President Biden has nominated Pete Buttigieg, former Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to be the next Secretary of Transportation. The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing for his nomination on Thursday and passed on his nomination to the full Senate. His nomination should come to the Senate floor for a full vote within the next two weeks.
The Week Ahead
The Adjournment Resolution is a resolution passed by the House & Senate that sets forth on which days the General Assembly will meet. Tomorrow is Legislative Day 5, and at this point, it is also the only remaining day that the House and Senate have agreed on in the current Adjournment Resolution. A new Adjournment Resolution will be passed tomorrow that will tell us when future Legislative Days will be scheduled, but we don’t yet know how far out the chambers have agreed to meet at this point.