Tensions between Gov. Brian Kemp and House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston over the governor’s $28 billion proposed 2021 state budget and funding reductions have led to a surprise General Assembly “break” until resolution is reached. Suspending work on non-budget legislation, announced around noon yesterday, was coupled with word that the General Assembly would reconvene on Feb. 18.
Ralston said the decision to pause was made after talks between House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders concerned over cuts and priorities. The governor, on the other hand, continues to defend his budget priorities and says he doesn’t see why the legislature can’t continue its work and still adjourn by the end of March. (Kemp’s budget reduces more than $210 million during this fiscal year and another $300 million in fiscal 2021.)
The Speaker says he’s particularly concerned about proposed cuts to mental health services, public safety and criminal justice initiatives. “Department heads and agency heads have come in and said they don’t have the information to give us,” Ralston said. “We started asking for this information as far back as late September. Some of the information we still don’t know.” The Senate, worried about the growing Kemp-Ralston rift which flared early last week, agreed to the break in order to cool tempers and give lawmakers more time to agree on priorities with the governor.
The feud is further exacerbated by Ralston trying to help his ally Rep. Doug Collins gain a leg up on fellow GOP U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who Kemp appointed to the position and who Collins is now running against in a “free-for-all” November election. Ralston wanted to pass legislation stipulating that the U.S. Senate race should revert to a May partisan primary and then a November partisan general election. Kemp quickly vowed to veto any such bill, saying the rules shouldn’t be changed at this late date, and the speaker had to back off.
Furthermore, yesterday around noon, Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce publicly stuck a knife into the speaker: “While we respect the Legislature’s purview, the governor does not need a lesson in conservatism from a man who brokered a deal with Democrats just last week for political gamesmanship” – a reference to the Ralston-backed partisan primary proposal.
InsiderAdvantage has learned that key Republican lawmakers are hoping the governor and speaker will start talking to each other again soon– and that cooler heads will prevail while forging various budget compromises.
To read all of InsiderAdvantage Georgia’s daily news, SUBSCRIBE HERE. *Subscription includes a complimentary subscription to JAMES Magazine.