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Kemp signs income tax refund bill into law as Perdue blasts move as ‘desperate attempt to get votes’

By Eva McKend, CNN

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday signed a bill that will make hundreds of dollars available to some Georgians in the coming weeks.

Passed by the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this month, the legislation uses more than $1 billion of surplus government funds to provide income tax refunds for state residents who filed returns in 2020 and 2021.

“When the government takes in more than it needs, I believe those dollars should be returned to the taxpayer,” Kemp, a Republican, who is up for reelection this year, said in a statement.

Like many states, Georgia has benefitted from strong tax revenues, which has helped it build up a surplus. It has collected nearly $20 billion in taxes from the start of the fiscal year in July to the end of February, an increase of 16% from the same period a year earlier. Revenue from individual and corporate income taxes, as well as sales taxes, have all grown by double digits so far this fiscal year.

The tax refunds are not the only break that Peach State residents will receive. Kemp and lawmakers also recently suspended the state’s 29.1-cent tax on gas and 32.6-cent tax on diesel, though the end of May.

Kemp’s move mirrors efforts in states across the country to provide relief to their residents in the face of inflation. In California, for example, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed using billions in surplus state funds to dole out $400 debit cards and free public transit for 3 months to help Californians offset the high cost of gas.

Former Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the Republican primary, blasted the Georgia governor’s move as an “election year giveaway and “a desperate attempt to get votes.” The primary is set for May 24, and former President Donald Trump will campaign for Perdue on Saturday.

At a campaign event attended by CNN earlier this month, Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s opponent in the 2018 gubernatorial race and the likely Democratic nominee in this year’s race, called Republicans out for bucking federal Covid relief efforts but still disseminating the funds.

“We have had investments made in the state over the last few years. But let’s be clear about where those dollars came from. As we see these massive amounts of money being passed out in this election year. I want us to remember it’s not who put their name on the cards but who bought the gift. And while there might be a K name on the card, it’s Biden and Warnock who got the money here,” Abrams said at the time.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect the factors that contributed to Georgia’s budget surplus.

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