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Georgia House Speaker Ralston proposes $75M for law enforcement, mental health
Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (Photo by Beau Evans)

ATLANTA – Georgia House Speaker David Ralston will ask House budget writers this winter to earmark $75 million for additional law enforcement and mental health services.

Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, made the announcement Wednesday during a speech at the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council Summer Training Conference on Jekyll Island.

“We owe it to our communities to bolster law enforcement and mental health services in a time when some areas of our state are seeing a dramatic increase in crime and the number of individuals in need of mental health care,” he said. “This proposal is one I am proud to offer and the House of Representatives will stand firmly behind when we consider it as part of our 2022 budget process.”

Wednesday’s announcement came just two days after Ralston called for a $3 million increase in funding for law enforcement during a meeting of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to talk about the recent crime wave in Atlanta. The $3 million is part of the much larger funding package Ralston proposed on Wednesday.

The $75 million includes $25 million in one-time $1,000 bonuses for sworn law enforcement officers, which will be made available to law enforcement agencies through grants.

“Georgia is a state that stands firmly with those who wear the badge,” Ralston said. “This $25 million is about rewarding those police officers and sheriff’s deputies who protect and serve our communities each and every day, often putting themselves in harm’s way in the line of duty.”

Of the other $50 million the speaker is seeking, more than $20 million will go to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and $10 million will go toward pay raises for state prosecutors and public defenders. The remaining $20 million will be divided among a dozen other state agencies based on requests and program needs, with a particular focus on mental health services.

Georgia ranks 51st and last in the nation for access to mental health care. Ralston has made improving mental health services a key priority of his legislative agenda.

“I have said many times that for us to continue to be a great state, we must also focus on being a good state – one that cares for those who need it,” he said. “Mental health is something that touches almost every family in this state, so investing in mental health services and our accountability courts is not just good business – it is also a way of helping people recover and reunite with their families.”

Ralston’s spending proposals will be considered during the 2022 General Assembly session beginning in January.