Gov. Brian Kemp has earned a “B” grade from the Cato Institute on the libertarian think tank’s recently released Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors. The report covers the spending and tax policies of governors across the country. Kemp’s grade is unchanged from the 2020 iteration of the report.
Only five governors—Kim Reynolds (R-IA), Chris Sununu (R-NH), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Brad Little (R-ID), and Doug Ducey (R-AZ) earned “A” grades. The highest scoring Democrat is Rory Cooper (D-NC), who is the at the top of the list of those who earned “B” grades. Overall, Kemp ranks 12th on the list. He ranks fourth in the Southeast, behind Cooper, Henry McMaster (R-SC), and Tate Reeves (R-MS).
On Kemp’s spending record, the report, authored by Chris Edwards and Ilana Blumsack, states, “General fund spending growth averaged 4.3 percent annually between 2019 and 2022, which was less than for the average state. For 2023, spending is expected to increase just 1.1 percent.”
Of course, Kemp’s record on spending has been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic hit Georgia, Kemp mandated a 14 percent across-the-board spending cut from state departments and agencies, although the cuts were eventually revised to 10 percent. In June 2020, the General Assembly cut $2.2 billion from the FY 2021 budget. The FY 2023 budget spends $30.2 billion, excluding federal and other funds. That’s up from the $25.9 billion spent in FY 2021. The increase in spending restores the cuts and reflects improvements in tax revenue collections that Georgia has seen as the state recovered quickly from the effects of the pandemic.
Kemp received particularly high marks on tax policy.
“Kemp has approved major tax reforms. In 2022, he signed HB 1437, which transitions Georgia from a multirate individual income tax to a flat tax. The bill collapses six tax brackets with a top rate of 5.75 percent to a single-rate tax of 5.49 percent in 2024. If revenue targets are met, the tax rate will fall to 4.99 percent by 2029. The bill also increases personal exemptions. The reforms will save taxpayers $450 million the first year and increasing amounts after that,” the report explains. “Kemp approved other tax cuts in 2022. He temporarily suspended the gas tax and approved one-time rebates of $250 for single filers and $500 for married couples. He also approved a bill exempting a portion of military retirement income from taxes.”
The full report is available here.