Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2020

7
May

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for May 7, 2020

George Washington attended the first inaugural ball on May 7, 1789 on Broadway near Wall Street in New York.

Washington arrived at the ball in the company of other American statesmen and their wives. That evening he danced with many of New York’s society ladies. Vice President John Adams, members of Congress and visiting French and Spanish dignitaries, as well their wives and daughters, joined in the festivities. Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, recorded her impressions of the ball in her memoirs, noting that the president liked to dance the minuet, a dance she thought was suited to his dignity and gravity.

On May 7, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant disengaged his Army of the Potomac from fighting against General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, ending the Battle of the Wilderness.

Although the Wilderness is usually described as a draw, it could be called a tactical Confederate victory, but a strategic victory for the Union army. Lee inflicted heavy numerical casualties (see estimates below) on Grant, but as a percentage of Grant’s forces they were smaller than the percentage of casualties suffered by Lee’s smaller army. And, unlike Grant, Lee had very little opportunity to replenish his losses. Understanding this disparity, part of Grant’s strategy was to grind down the Confederate army by waging a war of attrition. The only way that Lee could escape from the trap that Grant had set was to destroy the Army of the Potomac while he still had sufficient force to do so, but Grant was too skilled to allow that to happen. Thus, the Overland Campaign, initiated by the crossing of the Rappahannock, and opening with this battle, set in motion the eventual destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Therefore, even though Grant withdrew at the end of the battle (which is usually the action of the defeated side), unlike his predecessors since 1861, Grant continued his campaign instead of retreating to the safety of Washington, D.C. The significance of Grant’s advance was noted by James M. McPherson:

[I]nstead of heading north, they turned south. A mental sunburst brightened their minds. It was not another “Chancellorsville … another skedaddle” after all. “Our spirits rose,” recalled one veteran who remembered this moment as a turning point in the war. Despite the terrors of the past three days and those to come, “we marched free. The men began to sing.” For the first time in a Virginia campaign the Army of the Potomac stayed on the offensive after its initial battle.

May 7, 1864 saw some of the first fighting in the Atlanta campaign, northwest of Dalton, Georgia.

Keith Richards recorded the first version of the guitar riff that would become “Satisfaction” early in the morning of May 7, 1965 before passing out.

Jimmy Carter’s Presidential campaign received a boost on May 7, 1976 when he received the personal endorsement of the President of the United Auto Workers.

On May 7, 1996, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell responded to the FBI Report that ranked Atlanta the most violent city in the nation. Campbell would succeed in replacing headlines about Atlanta’s violent crime by substituting headlines about official corruption.

Happy Birthday to Bill Kreutzman, one of the drummers for the Grateful Dead. On Kreutzman’s 31st birthday, the Dead played at Boston Garden. The next night was the legendary Cornell show.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Brian Kemp will deliver an update on COVID-19 at 3:30 PM today:

At the Georgia State Capitol, Governor Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson, Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden, and Augusta University President Dr. Brooks Keel will give a briefing on COVID-19.

The briefing will be live streamed at facebook.com/GovKemp or gpb.org/coronavirus.

Georgia state tax revenues fell by nearly 36 percent against last March, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

The State of Georgia’s April net tax collections totaled nearly $1.84 billion for a decrease of $1.03 billion, or -35.9 percent, compared to April 2019 when net tax collections totaled $2.87 billion. Year-to-date net tax collections totaled $19.23 billion for a decrease of nearly $680 million, or -3.4 percent, compared to the previous fiscal year (FY) when net tax revenues totaled $19.91 billion.

Changes within the following tax categories for April are largely attributable to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the shifting of payment deadlines related to Motor Vehicle, Corporate Tax, and especially Individual Income Tax have had a profound impact on typical state revenue collection activity, resulting in the dramatic reduction of April and year-to-date FY 2020 tax revenues as outlined below.

Individual Income Tax: Individual Income Tax collections for April declined by $732 million, or -46.2 percent, down from April 2019 when net Individual Tax revenues totaled roughly $1.58 billion. Individual Income Tax refunds issued – net of voided checks – decreased by $253.6 million or -44.3 percent. Individual Income Tax Return payments decreased by $830.9 million, or -88.9 percent, from last year. Individual Withholding payments for the month were up $15.4 million, or 1.6 percent, over last year. All other categories, including non-resident income tax payments, were down a combined $170.1 million.

Sales and Use Tax: Gross Sales and Use Tax collections totaled $995.7 million for the month, which was a decrease of roughly $107 million, or -9.7 percent, compared to April 2019. Net Sales and Use Tax declined by $82.4 million, or -14.3 percent, compared to FY 2019, when net sales tax totaled $574.6 million. The adjusted Sales Tax distribution to local governments totaled $491.4 million for a decrease of $33.4 million, or -6.4 percent, from April 2019. Lastly, Sales Tax Refunds increased by nearly $8.8 million compared to FY 2019.

Corporate Income Tax: Net Corporate Income Tax collections decreased by nearly $219.1 million, or -70.6 percent, compared to FY 2019 when net Corporate Tax revenues totaled $310.4 million. Corporate Income Tax refunds – net of voids – decreased by $11.6 million, or -51.4 percent, from last year. Corporate Income Tax Estimated payments received were down $122.7 million or -64.5 percent. Corporate Income Tax Return payments decreased by $99.4 million or -78.3 percent. All other Corporate Tax types, including S-Corp tax payments, were down a combined $8.6 million.

Motor Fuel Taxes: Motor Fuel Tax collections increased by $80.3 million, or 50.9 percent, compared to FY 2019 on the strength of larger than ordinary, one-time settlement payments resulting from ongoing audit activities.

Motor Vehicle – Tag & Title Fees: Motor Vehicle Tag & Title Fees fell by roughly $16.3 million, or -43.4 percent, in April while Title Ad Valorem Tax (TAVT) collections declined by $22.7 million, or -30.7 percent, compared to FY 2019.

That is the story, along with related budgetary issues, to drive Georgia politics for the next 18 months, if not longer.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Members of the Georgia House Appropriations Committee will be confronted with those dismal revenue numbers when they meet Thursday for the first time since the 2020 General Assembly was suspended in mid-March because of COVID-19.

The state is facing an estimated budget shortfall for fiscal 2021 of $3 billion to $4 billion. Working with state Senate budget writers, the House panel will have to find ways to cut spending across the board by 14%, far deeper than the 6% reductions Gov. Brian Kemp ordered last summer to address slow revenue growth that was plaguing the state well before the coronavirus pandemic began.

From GPB News:

In an interview with GPB News last week, Kemp said the upcoming budget process would be “brutal” and that no agency would be spared from cuts in spending.

“Now this is going to be a brutal budget environment that we’re in,” he said. “In Georgia, we have a constitutional amendment that says we have to balance our budget, so we can’t spend more than we take in. So these cuts are going to the bone unless something happens with federal funding.”

This morning, the Georgia State House and Senate Appropriations Committees met jointly in a virtual meeting. You may click here if you are a glutton for punishment wish to watch the video of the meeting.

From the AJC:

Having just listened to details of the $1 billion fall in state revenue collections last month, House Appropriations Chairman Terry England closed the first legislative meeting since mid-March by stating the obvious.

“There is not a whole lot of positive news in this at all,” said England, a Republican from Auburn, who served in the same role through the tail end of the Great Recession.

One example of what the new pandemic recession means for state government was made clear before the House and Senate Appropriations committees held their virtual meeting Thursday: The Georgia Board of Regents approved a plan giving University System of Georgia leaders the authority to furlough employees, with those earning higher salaries taking larger cuts.

In the legislative meeting, Kelly Farr, the director of the Office of Planning and Budget, told lawmakers that state tax collections could go from bad to horrific over the next few months. The $1 billion drop in April was based in part on sales numbers for March.

The state didn’t start shutting down because of the coronavirus until the second half of that month. So next month’s report — which will include April sales — will likely be worse.

The decline in revenue means the state will have to dip heavily into its $2.7 billion rainy day reserve to pay for this fiscal year’s $27.5 billion budget, Farr said. This fiscal year ends June 30.

Dalton has created a local COVID stimulus program using federal grant funds. From the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

[Local business owner Austin] Culp and some two dozen Dalton business owners have applied for the city’s Small Business Stabilization Forgivable Loan Program. The program is funded with $150,000 from the $255,543 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money the city received under the CARES Act that was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March as well as $50,000 in unused funds from the city’s Minor Home Repair Program.

Community Development Block Grant is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program targeted at urban areas with low incomes and high poverty that funds anti-poverty efforts, infrastructure construction and programs to reduce blight.

The city program will provide loans of up to $15,000 to for-profit businesses with 50 or fewer employees that can demonstrate that revenue has decreased 30% or more due to the pandemic and the related shutdown. The loans must be used to rehire or retain workers. The loans will be forgiven after two years if the owner meets all the requirements.

The loans will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Businesses that receive the funds are required to submit monthly reports to the CDBG program office providing proof that they have used the funds for retention/rehire of low-moderate-income employees,” said Dalton Chief Financial Officer Cindy Jackson. “If proper reporting is not submitted, then the funds will be due back to the city.”

Andrew Turnage will serve as the Executive Director of the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission, according to the Saporta Report.

“I think he is clearly qualified and I’m pleased to see that he has relationships in place with legislative persons already so that he should be able to hit the ground running,” said Dr. Judith Rochon, a Kaiser Permanente psychiatrist and a member of the commission, speaking at its short phone meeting.

Turnage said in a press release soon after the meeting that the commission’s one goal is to get families linked up with cannabis oil that’s low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Think about families that have struggled to have their basic needs met during this pandemic. We have families in Georgia that have struggled for years to get this basic need, low-THC oil, and our task will be to ensure that they receive it,” Turnage said.

The state Legislature already set some boundaries. Up to six licensed companies to grow cannabis in secure greenhouses and manufacture a liquid that’s low in THC, the compound in marijuana that causes a high.

The liquid will be available via some number of retail locations to Georgians who have a medical cannabis card.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is rethinking the return of staff, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is adjusting its return to work plan for employees after teachers and staff raised concerns about going back to work during the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.

Among the changes is the decision to no longer require teachers and some staff to return to their schools. Principals, assistant principals, office staff, custodians and School Nutrition Program staff will continue their current work schedules, however.

“GCPS leaders received feedback on the plan from teachers and others who shared concerns about returning to the work site at this time,” district spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. “That feedback led district leaders to consider adjustments to the return-to-work sites plan.”

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