The 2022 Session of the Georgia General Assembly ended Monday, April 4, just shortly after midnight. I was thrilled to make the motion to adjourn “Sine Die” and celebrate with my colleagues when Speaker David Ralston declared the session had officially ended.
Passing a Balanced Budget
During our forty-day session, many issues important to Georgians were addressed. Our primary responsibility each year is to pass a balanced budget. House Bill 911 is the Fiscal Year 2023 budget. Set by a revenue estimate of $30.2 billion, an increase of $2.9 billion or 10.8 percent over the FY 2022 original budget, the budget presents the opportunity to make significant investments in state government that will resonate for many years – permanently restoring nearly $669 million eliminated from the budget in FY 2021 during the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The FY 2022 budget also contains the following highlights:
➤ $636 million to provide a $5,000 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for state employees including law enforcement, the first COLA since FY 2008,
➤ $25.6 million to allow state employees to withdraw and be compensated for up to 40 hours of accrued leave annually,
➤ $119.6 million to increase the employer 401(k) match up to 9 percent and refund a COLA for state retirees,
➤ $72.1 million in additional, targeted salary adjustments recognizing that for many agencies, once employees are trained, they are often recruited by other government entities and the private sector, leaving state jobs for better pay and opportunities,
➤ $148.9 million to bolster funding for mental health coordinated care and law enforcement,
The budget also allocates significant sums to support education, public safety, healthcare, higher education, economic development, criminal justice, and transportation. This budget includes teacher pay raises, additional state trooper training classes, and programs addressing workforce shortages in the healthcare field.
Cutting Your Taxes
We also passed House Bill 1437, the “Tax Reduction and Reform Act of 2022”, which eliminates the personal income tax brackets and replaces them with a flat tax rate of 5.49 percent. By holding all taxpayers to the same flat tax, Georgia is upholding the American ideals of treating all citizens equally. The bill allows for future annual reductions of one-tenth of one percent until reaching 4.99 percent, if certain fiscal milestones are met.
Protecting Georgia Farmers
Even with Georgia’s booming economy and growth in sectors including manufacturing, trade, and movie-making, agriculture remains our number one business, generating $74 billion in annual impact and employing 400,000 Georgians.
That’s why we are protecting Georgia’s number one industry, agriculture, with the passage of the “Freedom to Farm Act”. House Bill 1150 prevents a nuisance lawsuit from being brought against a farming operation that has been active for more than two years. This bill protects those Georgia farmers from frivolous lawsuits and safeguards our thriving agriculture industry.
Expanding Access to
Mental Health Services
One of our greatest achievements was the passage of House Bill 1013 - Speaker Ralston’s “Mental Health Parity Act”. This legislation will expand access to behavioral mental health services in Georgia, enabling individuals, families, and all concerned parties to address parity issues impacting mental health services. Further details on this important and impactful legislative accomplishment will be addressed in a later weekly article.
Now with the 2022 session completed, I look forward to spending more time in District 159. I will continue to provide weekly updates on legislative and policy issues between now and the next legislative session, and I look forward to hearing from and visiting with my constituents.
As always, do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.