Sec. of State addresses pending budget cuts due to COVID-19

Sec. of State addresses pending budget cuts due to COVID-19
vote here election sign (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Governor Brian Kemp wants to cut Georgia’s 2021 fiscal year budget by 14 percent across the board, because of COVID-19 expenses.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Friday that he and his office are working to find where to cut that money from their budget.

According to Raffensperger, the Secretary of State office could cut 10 percent of its elections budget with a simple solution.

However, they are not allowed to, because the issue is tied up in court.

Raffensperger explained that his office spends $36,000 a month (which adds up to $432,000 a year) to store the state's old voting machines in a warehouse.

Last year, after a lawsuit from election activists, a federal judge ruled that Georgia had to move away from the direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.

The state has since shifted to a verifiable paper ballot system.

Raffensperger said the federal judge also ruled that the state had to keep the old DRE machines.

Brad Raffensperger, Sec. of State
Brad Raffensperger, Sec. of State (Source: WALB)

“I don’t know why we have to spend this money,” Raffensperger said. “In this time of 14 percent budget cut, that’s a huge number for us to have to pay because it’s really the taxpayers that are paying that. It’s almost a half a million dollars a year, and we want to get relief on that.”

He said the matter is still tied up in federal court.

“They’re never going to be used again,” he explained. “It’s like having to hold on to a Model T that you’re never going to drive again, waiting for some kind of inspection. It doesn’t matter.”

When it comes to other cuts, Raffensperger said his office is already pretty efficient.

He said in the last 15 to 20 years, the Secretary of State's office has gone from having 750 employees to now less than 275.

For right now, among other possible cuts, when a position becomes empty, they are trying not to fill it for the time being.

But, he said freeing up that $36,000 a month that is spent to house the old voting machines would be the perfect solution.

"The taxpayers are paying for it, and so the people that should really be offended are the taxpayers of Georgia," he said. "They should be up in arms."

Gov. Kemp and the state House and Senate appropriations committees have asked state agencies to have their revised budgets ready by May 20.

Fiscal year 2021 begins on July 1.

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