FILE - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Georgia Democrats have launched a campaign against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget cuts.

The Democratic Party has created a website with a petition calling on lawmakers to fight the governor’s proposed cuts. Democrats also took to the state capitol for a news conference to discuss their opposition.

“Instead of supporting rural health care, this budget defunds programs that provide care at the local level and recruits doctors at rural hospitals,” Sen. Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Tuesday. “Instead of helping Georgians in crisis, this budget slashes funding for mental-health services, endangering our citizens when they need help the most. Instead of fully expanding Medicaid, this budget pushes more plans that covers fewer Georgians.”

In August, Kemp ordered state agencies to cut spending by 4 percent in fiscal year 2020 and by another 6 percent in fiscal 2021 as a way to streamline government spending. It’s an effort by the governor to keep his campaign promise of putting Georgians first. Kemp said his plan is to secure higher teacher pay, remove hurdles for small businesses, strengthen rural Georgia and increase access to affordable health care.

Democrats, however, say his proposal is “dangerous” for Georgians.

The Democratic Party of Georgia's website – “Don’t Cut Georgia’s Future” – is seeking 10,000 supporters to sign an accompanying petition. As of Wednesday afternoon, a little more than 500 people had signed the petition. 

Democrats also are urging residents to call state legislators and ask them to vote against the cuts.

The General Assembly is holding appropriation meetings all week to comb through the state’s $28.1 billion spending plan.

Each state agency submitted their plans for the reductions in September. Kemp presented his budget at the start of the legislation session in January.

An examination of Kemp’s budget shows millions of dollars in cuts to the Department of Public Health, including grants for county boards of health. Several cuts are recommended to programs that address the health-care shortages in rural areas. It also cuts funding for Medicaid and other health-care safety nets for low-income and mentally disabled adults. 

Notwithstanding, Kemp has a submitted waiver to the Affordable Health Care Act to offer more Medicaid coverage to Georgians.

Kemp’s office has continued to back the budget adjustments.

Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the governor, has said the cuts were recommended after “an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of every agency’s budget submission.” Broce also told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that federal and local funding can be used to compensate for the state reductions.

In one case, Kemp’s plan swaps an Office for Children and Families program that addresses early childhood care for a federal substitute.

Republican lawmakers also have expressed concerns over the program cuts.

Rep. Sam Watson, R–Moultrie, said it adds to the challenges faced by rural communities.

“And you know the problems we’re dealing with right now – from pricing to increasing input costs, and still trying to beg and plead to get disaster funds and trade battles – and this is the last thing we need, is something like this,” Watson said.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.