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Georgia’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Georgia’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $57.7 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, Georgia’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $77.4 billion in FY 2019 (the most recent year census data were available), or $7,280 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,161.
Georgia’s largest spending areas per capita were elementary and secondary education ($2,036) and public welfare ($1,247). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
Georgia’s combined state and local general revenues were $81.6 billion in FY 2019, or $7,675 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,563. Georgia uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, Georgia’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($1,454), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and property taxes ($1,289).
Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, was elected in 2018 with 50 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives (103 Republicans to 77 Democrats) and Senate (34 Republicans to 22 Democrats). Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in Georgia. The entire legislature is up for election in 2022 because both representatives and senators serve two-year terms.
Georgia’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
Georgia uses an annual budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget, but it can carry a deficit over into the following year. Georgia does not have any other tax and expenditure limits. However, there are limits on total authorized debt and debt service incurred by the state.
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
Georgia’s current budget
Georgia enacted its FY 2022 budget in May 2021. The enacted budget included $54.3 billion in total spending and $23.3 billion in general fund spending. (Georgia’s definition of its general fund spending is not the same as NASBO’s definition, so the historical totals reported below are not comparable. See <a href=“https://www.nasbo.org/reports-data/state-expenditure-report =”_blank"> NASBO’s report for more detail.) Georgia also passed an individual income tax cut—via an increase in its standard deductions—in March 2021.
Under the American Rescue Plan, Georgia will receive $4.9 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $2.6 billion in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Georgia had not reported how it plans to spend its state ARP funds.
According to NASBO, Georgia’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:
FY 2021: $28.1 billion/$57.7 billion
FY 2020: $28.2 billion/$60.8 billion
FY 2019: $28.0 billion/$56.9 billion
For more on Georgia’s budget, see
Georgia’s economic trends
Georgia’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $55,289 in 2021, ranking 36th among the states. It was below both the national average of $63,444 and the Southeast regional average of $56,118. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $61,224 in 2020, ranking 29th among the states and below the national average of $64,994. Georgia’s poverty rate was 14.3 percent in 2020 (five-year estimate), above the national rate of 12.8 percent.
Although Georgia’s averages tell a story about the entire state, Georgia is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Statesboro’s median household income was $32,790, and its poverty rate was 37.7 percent; the city of Milton’s median household income was $127,487, and its poverty rate was 4.5 percent.
Georgia’s unemployment rate has historically been below the national average but began exceeding the national rate following the Great Recession. In recent years, unemployment in Georgia has tracked the national average closely. (See how COVID-19 is affecting state employment and earnings data.)
Unemployment rates (like other economic indicators) often vary significantly by race and ethnicity. In Georgia, the average unemployment rate in 2021 was 3.1 percent for white residents, 5.9 percent for Black residents, and 2.6 percent for Hispanic or Latino residents. (This is preliminary data. See the 2020 data for a more detailed breakdown of state unemployment rates by race and ethnicity.)