Georgia Legislature

A Georgia State Trooper (right) walks the empty hallways of the Georgia State Capitol building during the 29th day of the Georgia Legislative session, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Atlanta. Out of caution and in relation to the coronavirus, the Georgia General Assembly suspended the legislative session until further notice. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA — More than three dozen businesses and nonprofit organizations are calling on Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly to raise more revenue to overcome a looming fiscal 2021 budget shortfall rather than impose deep spending cuts.

In a letter released Thursday, the companies and groups warned that slashing spending on state programs and services would have devastating consequences for large segments of Georgia’s population.

“Georgia cannot cut its way to prosperity: that much has been made clear in the aftermath of the Great Recession and in the midst of the global pandemic,” the letter stated. “Deep cuts will disproportionately harm communities of color and rural communities and curb the state’s ability to recover.”

With Georgia tax revenues reeling from the impact of a business shutdown brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Kemp ordered state agencies last month to reduce spending by 14% across the board. He subsequently scaled that back to 11% when new revenue numbers came in that didn’t look as dire as previous forecasts.

The Atlanta-based Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, one of the groups signing on to Wednesday’s letter, has been urging lawmakers to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax, the third-lowest in the nation, to the national average and get rid of the “double-deduction” loophole that lets upper-income taxpayers who itemize pay less in state income taxes.

The group also wants a closer examination of the lucrative tax incentives the state offers to lure businesses to move to Georgia, notably the popular film tax credit, to determine if some tax breaks should be eliminated or scaled back to achieve budget savings.

“Our leaders must recapture lost revenue given out through billions of dollars in special interest tax breaks and raise new revenues in order to reduce revenue shortfalls and ensure funding flows to health, education, programs for families experiencing poverty and more,” said Jennifer Owens, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s senior vice president.

Other signatories to the letter include the Georgia NAACP, Georgians for a Healthy Future, Bell Primary Care LLC, Latino Community Fund Inc., and the League of Women Voters of Georgia.

The General Assembly will resume the 2020 legislative session on Monday, three months after suspending the session because of COVID-19.

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