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Georgia House approves $5 billion spending increase for current budget

The Georgia House of Representatives passed the amended budget for the fiscal year 2024 on Wednesday, adding $5 billion in spending to the original budget. The budget includes money for behavioral health, elections, education, transportation, and other projects.

House restores some of its priorities after governor’s cuts

The House adopted most of the governor’s proposals for the midyear budget, which included $1.9 billion of one-time cash from the $11 billion undesignated surplus. The governor also proposed pay raises for teachers, state employees, and law enforcement officers, as well as funding for community and behavioral health programs.

However, the House also restored some of its spending priorities that were disregarded by the governor last year. Due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Gov. Brian Kemp directed state agencies to ignore more than 130 budget line items that totaled more than $200 million. Some of these items were later funded or repurposed, but others were left out.

Georgia House approves $5 billion spending increase for current budget

Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Dublin Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the House has the authority to set policy in the state through the budget. He said the House will continue to use the budget for the next fiscal year to reflect and restate its priorities.

“We are the appropriators,” Hatchett said. “And we absolutely have the authority under the Georgia Constitution in setting policy in this state, and the budget is the most direct way we do that.”

House adds money for prisons, elections, and economic development

The House also made some changes to the governor’s budget, using the savings from the decline in Medicaid enrollment due to the pandemic. The House added $28 million to reimburse counties for housing state prisoners, raising the rate from $22 per day to $24. The House also allocated $1.3 million for economic development projects.

Another addition was $3 million for election administration, which will be used to reimburse counties for the costs of the 2020 and 2021 elections, as well as to fund a pilot program for risk-limiting audits. The House also added $250,000 for the State Election Board to hire two investigators.

The House also increased funding for the Department of Corrections, adding $8.6 million for personal services, $2.5 million for inmate health care, and $1.5 million for facility repairs and maintenance.

House supports governor’s plans for education and transportation

The House supported the governor’s plans to invest in education and transportation, which are two of the largest areas of spending in the budget. The House agreed to spend $567 million for a one-time $1,000 bonus for teachers and school staff, as well as $240 million for a 2.5% pay raise for state employees and $75 million for a 10% pay raise for law enforcement officers.

The House also approved the governor’s proposal to spend $178 million for the construction of a new dental school at Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus in Savannah, and $50 million for a new medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens.

The House also backed the governor’s plan to spend $1.5 billion on transportation projects, including $450 million for the construction of a new state prison in Washington County, $200 million for bridge repair and replacement, and $150 million for airport infrastructure.

The House passed the amended budget with a 161-2 vote, and sent it to the Senate for consideration. The budget covers the period from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024.


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