Sen. Majority Leader Mike Dugan is running for reelection during one of the most unusual years of his legislative career.
A retired Army Ranger and Master Paratrooper, Dugan was elected to represent District 30 in 2013 and has served as the Senate majority leader since 2018.
But he faces a challenge from the Democrat candidate, Montenia Edwards, a clinical researcher who is running because she said she has a “passion for serving with compassion.”
Senate District 30 includes most of Carroll County and parts of Douglas and Paulding counties.
In an interview with the Times-Georgian, Dugan said that earlier this month, he and other Senate members decided on six priorities for the next legislative session, among them healthcare, public safety and education.
“Priorities are most often where you can see investment in the state, and with healthcare and education being the two that are by far the largest, that’s almost 75% of the budget,” he said. “That’s obviously where a large part of where our focus will be.”
On healthcare, Dugan said the state Senate expanded the coverage for new mothers and their babies earlier this year, which he said this was a personal issue for him.
He was referring to a proposal in January by the state House’s Study Committee on Maternal Mortality to expand Medicaid coverage for eligible women. The panel was formed last year to investigate why Georgia is consistently among the 10 states with the highest maternal death rate, according to the Capitol Beat news service.
“I could not tolerate Georgia being amongst the lowest in the nation for the maternal and infant mortality rate, so we doubled the length of time that we cover new mothers and new babies,” he said Monday night, during a virtual candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters Carrollton-Carroll County.
He added the state legislature overhauled Medicaid coverage two years ago to provide better choices for residents. Georgians would have to choose between affordable, accessible or quality healthcare, he said, which he said is not right.
This is an expansion of Medicaid, he added, and he said this is waiting on federal approval in the next few months.
“What we’re working to do is letting people choose the coverage that works for them and the providers that work best for them,” he said on Monday. “That way they aren’t choosing between that and all these other things they need in life.”
Earlier this year, state lawmakers were facing cuts to the budget even before the pandemic began, Dugan said, and legislators ultimately cut $2.2 billion from the financial plan.
But he added revenues are looking good statewide for the first quarter of the new fiscal year. The Capitol Beat news service reported the state brought in $6.2 billion in tax revenue between July and September, a 6.3% increase — or $365 million more — from this time last year.
He said based on these numbers, there may not be additional cuts made to the financial plan when lawmakers regroup for the next legislative session in 2021.
“We were looking at budget cuts across the board, and then the pandemic hit,” he said. “But, right now, revenues in Georgia are looking good. They are better than they were at this time last year, but we are going to have to put money away because, in April, people will be eligible for income tax refunds at a higher rate than they were last year. That comes out of our numbers. We have to be cautious and plan ahead for what we know is coming.”