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Update, May 10, 2023: The amended Fiscal Year 2023 budget adopted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 10 included both the income tax refund for taxpayers and the property tax refund for property owners.
Georgians are likely to receive two one-time tax refunds this year if lawmakers approve Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposal this legislative session. An income tax refund will mean $250 for single filers and $500 for joint filers this spring, and homeowners are likely to get about $500 in property tax refunds by year’s end.
The tax refunds will cost the state about $2.1 billion, to be drawn from the $6.6 billion in surplus funds from fiscal year 2022, which ended last June. What will an extra $250 to $1,000 in the household budget mean for most people?
What Taxpayers Are Saying
“It would be awesome to get it,” said Corey Cooper, 44, a barber who lives in Conyers. Recent storms and a lightning strike have split a tree and knocked down trees and branches all over his 5 1/2-acre property. He said he’ll put the property tax refund “back into my home” and plans to buy a top-of-the-line chainsaw to cut up all the branches. The chainsaw, he said, will cost about $500. He plans to save the other $250.
A traffic supervisor for a construction company, Chris McCart, 27, plans to use the $250 he’s likely to receive to dig himself out of credit card debt. He’s currently living in a room in his sister’s house in McDonough while he saves and rebuilds his credit. “That money will help me get ahead of the game,” he said.
Adam Wright, a communications expert currently on disability, said he would rather see his family’s $1,000 refund “go to the people in Georgia who need it most.”
“We have a lot of people living on a subsistence level. It would have more impact on them than the rest of us who are doing better,” said Wright, 47, who lives in East Atlanta with his longtime partner Elizabeth Allen, a product manager and owner of their home. Nonetheless, he said they’ll probably end up spending the refunds on home improvement projects.
“A thousand dollars helps, but it honestly doesn’t make a big difference for us,” he added. “I know direct cash payments could help other people stay whole. And that affects crime, it affects health care, it affects everything.”
Debra Saunders, 57, who manages a day care center and owns a home in south Dekalb, agreed.
“They need to send that money where it’s really needed, like permanent shelter for homeless people, and providing Medicaid for the uninsured,” she said. “Everybody in the state doesn’t need to get that back.”
Saunders said she’ll likely end up spending the $750 in funds she’s expected to get on home gas bills, as rates have gone up sharply over last year. But she wishes the working and middle-class parents of the children she serves at her day care could get more money in the form of child care subsidies.
“People are really struggling to pay for child care and make ends meet so they can keep their jobs,” she said. “I wish they would use that surplus on the realities that people are actually struggling with.”
While the state has enjoyed robust tax collections, record surplus and low unemployment over the past year, the state’s chief economist expects state tax revenue to dip as much as $3 billion this year, primarily due to stock market declines. This could limit state funds available for safety net programs in the next fiscal year.
Meanwhile, health coverage provided through Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of Georgians during the coronavirus pandemic via special federal emergency funds will end on April 1. Many of those people could lose their health coverage this year, as they will no longer qualify.
Despite the expected downturn in revenue, the big surplus would allow Kemp to keep his campaign promise of giving some of that money back to Georgians.
Over the next few months, members of both houses of the General Assembly will deliberate and vote on whether to approve the two tax refunds, among other line items in the governor’s proposed fiscal year 2023 amended budget and fiscal year 2024 budget.
Header photo: Conyers resident Corey Cooper plans to buy a chainsaw to help maintain his property with his tax refund. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)
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A study committee of Georgia senators took a decisive step Tuesday toward ending a longstanding and contentious law that regulates how and where new medical facilities are located in the state.
The committee’s decision centers on the 44-year-old Certificate of Need law. It was created to control health care costs and cut down on duplication of services and unnecessary expansions. It determines when, where and if hospitals need to be built. Opponents have said the law prevents competition and enables big hospitals to have a monopoly, often shutting out small and private medical outlets.
On Tuesday, the Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform effectively said the law needs to be repealed. The committee approved, in a 6-2 vote, nine recommendations.
“Based upon the testimony, research presented, and information received, the Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform has found that the problem Georgia’s CON law was intended to combat no longer exists,” the report said.
However, the head of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals said Tuesday that repealing the law would be a bad idea.
“It would have a devastating financial impact on hospitals and the quality and access to health care,” Monty Veazey, the alliance’s chief executive, told State Affairs.
Veazey said he has not seen the recommendations yet but his organization has sent its own set of recommendations to the senate and house study committees.
“We believe that the certificate of need really does need some modernization and we look forward to working with the committee to work through those recommendations and see if we can reach a compromise position during the upcoming legislative session,” Veazey said. “We still want to see what the House committee recommends before moving forward.”
Here’s what the senate study committee recommends, according to a draft:
- Repeal CON requirements for obstetrics services, neonatal intensive care, birth centers and all services related to maternal and neonatal care across Georgia.
- End requirements for hospital-based CON on Jan. 1, 2025.
- Reform CON laws to eliminate CON review for new and expanded inpatient psychiatric services and beds that serve Medicaid patients and the uninsured.
- Repeal all cost expenditure triggers for CON.
- All medical and surgery specialties should be considered a single specialty, including cardiology and general surgery.
- Multi-specialty centers should be allowed, particularly in rural areas.
- Remove CON for hospital bed expansion.
- Revise freestanding emergency department requirements such that they must be within 35 miles of an affiliated hospital.
- Remove CON for research centers.
The committee will present its recommendations to the Georgia General Assembly when it reconvenes in January.
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ATLANTA — The first step in the 2023 electoral redistricting process occurred Monday when Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, released a draft proposal of new Senate district maps.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to redraw its state House, Senate and congressional district maps, adopted in 2021 by a majority-Republican-led Legislature, after finding they violated the Votings Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters. The Georgia General Assembly is charged with submitting new maps to comply with Jones’ order by Dec. 8, and will be meeting in an eight-day special legislative session to do so, starting on Wednesday.
The proposed Senate maps would create two Black-majority voting districts while eliminating two white majority districts in metro Atlanta now represented by Democrats. The districts of state Sen. Elena Parent, chair of the Senate Democratic caucus, and Democratic Sen. Jason Esteves, a freshman, would become majority-Black if the redrawn maps make it through the redistricting process, a change that could invite considerably more primary challenges.
The proposed maps do not significantly alter the district lines for Sen. Valencia Seay, D-Riverdale, and Sen. Marty Harbin, R-Tyrone, whose districts Jones ruled did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. It will be up to Jones to decide if the new maps pass muster.
As it stands, the proposed Senate map will leave Republicans with a 33-23 advantage in the Senate.
On Wednesday legislators will plunge into their redistricting work during a special session at the Capitol. In addition to the state Senate maps, lawmakers must also redraw electoral maps to create Black majorities in one additional congressional district in west-metro Atlanta, and in five additional state House districts in Atlanta and the Macon-Bibb County area.
The proposed Senate maps (and all proposed maps to be submitted by legislators) are available on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office’s website. Written comments can be submitted (and viewed) by the public through the portal available on the Georgia General Assembly website. Most of the reapportionment and redistricting committee’s hearings are open to the public; the daily legislative schedule is available here.
“The committee encourages public participation and values the input of the community in this vital democratic process,” Echols said in a statement released on Monday.
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Veteran government and political aide Lauren Curry has been named Gov. Brian Kemp’s chief of staff, becoming the first woman in Georgia’s 235-year history to hold that title. Curry, currently the deputy chief of staff, assumes her new role on Jan. 15. She succeeds Trey Kilpatrick who has accepted a job with Georgia Power as …
ATLANTA — An invitation-only tribute service for former first lady Rosalynn Carter will be held at 1 p.m. today on the campus of Emory University at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church. Former President Jimmy Carter, who has been receiving hospice care at home in Plains since February, is expected to attend, along with other Carter …