FILE - Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston

Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston

Members of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations committees will return to Atlanta a few months early to begin discussing amendments to the Fiscal Year 2020 budget and look at next year’s spending plan.

The meetings come just a few weeks after state leaders asked agency heads to cut their mid-year budgets and plan for a leaner spending plan next year.

House Speaker David Ralston requested the budget meetings, which will be held on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27.

“I appreciate the importance Speaker Ralston is putting on the upcoming budget process, and that he is encouraging thorough, thoughtful discussion of the state’s appropriations,” Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, said in a prepared statement. “We will work to take the governor’s concerns about a slowing economy into account as we begin this important work, and we look forward to working with Governor Kemp’s staff, state agency heads and economists to determine the prudent way forward.”

The Governor’s Office of Budget and Management (OMB) requested in early August that state departments begin looking at ways to reduce fiscal 2020 spending by 4 percent and the Fiscal Year 21 budget by 6 percent.

The state ended Fiscal Year 2019 with “revenues exceeding estimates” but “growing revenues does not mean growing the size of government,” said Kelly Farr, the director of the OMB in a memo to state agency heads.

The 4 percent cuts are expected to be withheld by agencies beginning Oct. 1, according to the memo, to “eradicate the need for large reductions in the latter half of the year.”

Agency heads have until Friday to submit their final plans to the OMB.

The committees are expected to discuss the reduction requests and other items on Gov. Brian Kemp’s agenda when they meet.

Kemp’s first budget as governor was a $27.5 billion spending plan that included a $3,000 pay raise for teachers. Kemp is promising an additional $2,000 before the end of his term.

The first tax collection report of fiscal 2020 was promising and is expected to keep the budget on target. State tax collections were cumulatively up 3.1 percent over the previous year for the month of July, which begins the state’s fiscal year, according to the Georgia Department of Revenue. Georgia’s personal income tax collections increased 8.1 percent while sales taxes increased 2.1 percent.

Ralston and England have not announced the times for the Appropriations Committee meetings.