Georgia lawmakers hold second virtual budget meeting

Members of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations Committees held their second virtual budget meeting Wednesday as they prepare to cut the state's budget by an estimated 14 percent.

"We're gonna get through this, y'all. It's gonna be a little bit different and still be a little bit difficult for a little bit, but we're gonna get through it," said House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.

The meeting was a question and answer session for lawmakers as they grapple with just how much the coronavirus pandemic has slowed the state's economy and tax revenues.

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At least one lawmaker wanted to know if a 14% reduction was really needed as businesses continue to reopen. 

"In conversations with the House and Senate budget offices, the planning target of 14% cuts for agencies was to get agencies preparing for whatever possible level of cuts end up being necessary," explained Kelly Farr, director of the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget.  "Once the governor's revenue estimate is updated--somewhere around June 1, the actual cuts can then be decided by the legislature."

Earlier this month, the governor's office announced April tax revenues had declined by more than $1 billion.

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State Fiscal Economist Dr. Jeffery Dorfman said the state will need to utilize $1 to $1.5 billion from the state's nearly $2.4 billion rainy day fund to make it through the fiscal year, which ends June 30.  Last week, Dorfman said a large percentage of the tax revenue decline could be attributed to the tax deadline being moved from April 15 to July 15.  He estimated the state will recoup between $1 and $1.5 billion in revenue come July.

Lawmakers are set to resume the legislative session sometime in June to finalize the budget.