With state agencies facing their first budget cuts since the Great Recession, Georgians were eager to hear more about which services are seeing reductions in funding and how Georgia plans to combat declining revenues this year at Insights 2020: Weighing Opportunity. Nearly 300 attendees turned out for GBPI’s annual policy conference on January 24, the largest event in the organization’s 15-year history, and discussions throughout the day focused on Georgia’s ongoing budget situation. GBPI President and CEO Taifa Smith Butler kicked off the event with a discussion of our 2020 priorities, how to build a people-first Georgia and how GBPI has evolved over the last 15 years.
To provide more detail on GBPI’s vision for building a people-first Georgia, Deputy Director Jennifer Owens unveiled People-Powered Prosperity 2.0. A groundbreaking campaign for GBPI in 2018, People-Powered Prosperity gained traction over the last two years and helped shape policy debates on educated youth, skilled workers, thriving families and healthy communities. At Insights 2020, Owens announced new strategic partnerships with 9to5 Georgia, Faith in Public Life and Small Business Majority to build a larger network focused on making People-Powered Prosperity a reality for all Georgians.
Next, GBPI Policy Analyst Danny Kanso offered our signature budget analysis with a look at what changes have been made to Georgia’s 2020 budget and what’s in store for 2021. He detailed why agency budget cuts are being made, which agencies are facing the largest cuts and why Georgia cannot afford to pass another income tax rate cut this year, a move that would cost the state $550 million in revenue per year.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter James Salzer moderated a panel with several lawmakers after Kanso’s presentation to further discuss state priorities for the 2020 Legislative Session. Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, Rep. James Beverly and Rep. David Dreyer joined him to offer their perspectives on a pending tax cut, along with possible new revenue options for the state and thoughts on solutions to support more Georgians in health care, child care and more.
“Right now, the revenue is not there for that,” said Hufstetler when asked if he thought Georgia would pass another tax cut this session. “I don’t see the math there right now.” Dreyer said the state’s priority should be fulfilling “basic obligations.”
The full GBPI analyst team joined Kanso for a panel discussion about Georgia’s amended 2020 budget and FY 2021 budget, highlighting the largest changes in department budgets from education to human services to health care. Senior Policy Analyst Dr. Stephen Owens told attendees that teacher pay raises will cost nearly $900 million between FY 2020 and 2021. Senior Policy Analyst Alex Camardelle detailed the Department of Human Service’s $29 million reduction in funding for FY 2021, including a $16 million cut from child welfare and foster care.
After lunch, Nikole Hannah-Jones, award-winning investigative reporter who covers civil rights and racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, provided a timely, incredibly insightful keynote focused on the country’s failure to provide an equitable education for all students. Beginning her keynote with the foundations of America, she captivated the entire conference audience as she walked through the history of public education and explained why not every student is given an equal opportunity to succeed.
Her speech left the audience ready to work towards a more equitable public education system, and attendees left with a copy of Education in Georgia’s Black Belt: Policy Solutions to Help Overcome a History of Exclusion to think through solutions to start addressing the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and mass incarceration in Georgia. She continued discussing solutions during a keynote panel with Taifa Smith Butler, Southern Education Foundation President and CEO Raymond Pierce and Early County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bronwyn Ragan-Martin.
The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta helped make this keynote possible. You can learn more about their work through the video below.
In the morning guests also had the opportunity to join breakout sessions. Senior Policy Analyst Laura Harker sat down with CaringWorks, Inc. Founder and CEO Dr. Carol Collard, Chief Operating Officer for Good Samaritan Health Center Dr. Breanna Lathrop and UGA Associate Professor and Extension Housing Specialist Dr. Pamela R. Turner to explore the connection of housing and health. Senior Policy Analyst Jennifer Lee discussed ways for Georgia to make college more affordable with UGA President Emeritus Dr. Chuck Knapp, College Advising Corps Senior Regional Director Dr. Yarbrah Peeples and Valdosta State Student Body President Jacob Bell.
Our Insights policy conference continues to provide key details and discussions on Georgia’s budget and priorities each year. As the legislative session continues, be sure to follow GBPI on Twitter and Facebook for news and analysis, and keep up to date with all our work by subscribing to our newsletter.
For more photos from Insights 2020, click here.