ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned Georgia's governor has ordered all state agencies to slash their budgets by 4% this year and an additional 6% next year.
This is the first time state agencies have gotten an order like this since the Great Recession hit 10 years ago.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant spoke with Gov. Brian Kemp at the Capitol, and the governor said the cuts will make good on a campaign promise, but critics called them a bad idea and a manufactured crisis.
"I'm very optimistic about our economy in our state," Kemp said. "I just think it's better to do that when times are good rather than waiting for a crisis to do that. I think it's a great time for us to take advantage of something that I campaigned on, making government more efficient. Streamline it. It will continue to give us the resources that we need to fund our priorities, and that's really what the directive is about."
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The letter from Kemp's budget director to agency heads announcing the cuts also instructed:
"In order to mitigate the need for larger reductions in the latter half of this year, agencies should expect to begin withholding the estimated four percent, reduction from their standard monthly allotments beginning October 1."
"I'm excited, and I think our folks will come up with some creative ways to do that," Kemp said.
State coffers are feeling the pinch after lawmakers voted to cut the top tax rate last year.
In the meantime, the left-leaning Georgia Budget Policy Institute sent Channel 2 Action News a statement saying:
"Georgia does not have a spending problem and in fact ranks 50th in the growth of state spending since the recession. These budget cuts are in stark contrast to the needs of a growing state. Georgia lawmakers can end this manufactured budget crisis by enacting smart reforms."
Kemp said the cuts will help cover other campaign promises, such as teacher pay hikes.
It's too soon to know what impact the cuts will have on the agencies and the services they provide, but we will be tracking all of that in the weeks and months ahead.
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