Georgia Research Alliance gets Kemp’s backing

Gov. Brian Kemp gave a strong show of support to the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Thursday.

But the nonprofit organization launched in 1990 with seed money from the state to grow Georgia’s technology industry still will be subject to same budget cuts Kemp has ordered for state agencies.

The governor told members of the GRA board his ties to the organization go back to the early 2000s, when he was serving as a state senator representing an Athens, Ga.-based district that included The University of Georgia campus. Kemp helped with efforts to attract top academic researchers to UGA as part of the GRA’s Eminent Scholars program.

“I believe the research alliance is worth funding,” Kemp said. “[But] we’re facing interesting times in state government. We’re asking people to be creative and innovative and more efficient, so we can fund priorities. … All we’re asking of people in state government is to justify the money they need.”

With Georgia tax revenues growing at a slower rate than at any time since the Great Recession, the governor ordered state agencies last month to reduce their budgets for the current fiscal year by 4% and cut spending during fiscal 2021 by 6%.

GRA board Chairman David Ratcliffe said the alliance has seen its budget cut by 60% to 70% during the last five years, making further reductions particularly challenging. The General Assembly allocated $10.1 million to the alliance for fiscal 2020, which began in July, the same funding it received in fiscal 2019.

Russell Allen, the GRA’s president and CEO, said the alliance will be able to hit the budget-cutting targets by reducing grants and loans.

“We have to look at our programs and prioritize, as [Kemp] has asked everyone else,” Allen said.

Kemp will make his budget recommendations to Georgia lawmakers when the legislature convenes for the 2020 session in January.

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