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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / State Sen. Jeff Mullis speaks before a bill signing ceremony at Gordon Lee High School on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Chickamauga, Georgia.

Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, will introduce a bill that would cut legislator pay by 14% — the same cut state agencies are being asked to make — as the state grapples with budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"As the economic picture of our state continues to become clearer, the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt statewide," Mullis said in a news release. "The Georgia State Budget will be compromised due to the most recent economic status of our state. With the budget process in front of us, many tough decisions will have to be made."

On May 1, state agencies in Georgia were told to expect a 14% budget cut — or $3.5 billion — for the fiscal year that starts July 1 due to the recession that has hit state finances hard once schools, businesses and other operations closed due to the coronavirus.

The 14% cut in state spending could lead to more than a thousand employees being laid off or bought out and thousands more being forced to take unpaid days off.

Mullis said his proposed pay cut is a way to support the effort.

"The legislature is not immune to economic setbacks," he said.

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / State Sen. Jeff Mullis speaks before a bill signing ceremony at Gordon Lee High School on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Chickamauga, Ga.

A bipartisan bill was introduced in 2019 to take a closer look at increasing pay for lawmakers in Georgia and a commission was created to take a closer look. The bill, which Mullis co-sponsored, would have increased the pay for lawmakers "equal to the median annual household income" for Georgia citizens.

The median income for Georgia in 2017, according to the U.S. Census, was $56,183.

Mullis said that bill is no longer up for discussion.

Lawmakers in Georgia make $17,350 a year, one of the lowest per capita in the country.

"Now, it is time to prioritize Georgia's budget," Mullis said.

Mullis, a 20-year-veteran in the Senate, is running again for the 53rd District. His opponents are current Rep. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, and Todd Noblitt, a Republican from Fort Oglethorpe.

"Senator Mullis last year tried to introduce legislation to raise legislators pay 340%," Moore said. "Now in an election cycle he proposes a reduction in pay? The currents of politics are swift, he's proving he has no anchor of moral principle."

In response to the announcement, Noblitt said the citizens of the 53rd District "will not be swayed by political gamesmanship."

"Last year, Senator Mullis celebrated an unopposed re-election by joining Democrats to co-sponsor Senate Bill 81 seeking a raise of over $38,000," Noblitt said.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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