Gov. Brian Kemp proposes state employee pay raise, refunds for taxpayers

Gov. Brian Kemp officially presented his budget proposals to lawmakers at a joint House and Senate appropriations hearing Tuesday morning.

"Despite the uncertainty of the last two years, I've never been more optimistic about our state and I tell people that every single day," said Kemp.

The state is going into the budget process with nearly $4 billion in excess funds.  

Kemp's budget proposal would give teachers a $2,000 raise to complete the $5,000 overall raise he promised during his 2018 campaign.  The budget would also increase pay for full-time, benefit-eligible state employees by $5,000.  

"I recognize that state employees have not had a cost-of-living adjustment to their salaries since before the Great Recession. This has increased turnover for state agencies creating staffing challenges and increasing costs for recruitment and training," Gov. Kemp said.  

At the same time, the governor said he plans to introduce legislation that would allow the state to increase its employer contributions to employees' 401Ks from 3% to up to 9%, based on their length of service.  

In addition, the governor's plan would return $1.6 billion in excess revenue to Georgia taxpayers. Single filers would receive $250 and those who filed jointly would get $500.  

"I firmly believe that when government takes in more than it needs, it's our responsibility to the taxpayers to return those funds to them, because it's their money, not the government's.  And these funds will do more good in the pockets of our citizens than in the coffers of our state, especially when we're dealing with an inflation rate that's at a 39-year high," Gov. Kemp explained.  

Budget hearings continue at the state Capitol through Thursday.