Tuesday, January 19th marked the beginning of what we refer to as, “budget week”. The only thing that we are constitutionally required to do during our 40 day session is pass a balanced budget. While balancing a budget seems simple enough, when dealing with billions of dollars, it is a huge undertaking! House and Senate appropriations committees held a series of joint budget hearings throughout the week. This gave us the opportunity to closely examine Governor Deal’s recommendations as well as hear testimony from various state agencies that are in need of funding. We are in the first stages of crafting two budget bills: the Fiscal Year 2017 budget and the Amended Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
2016 Amended Budget Proposal
The 2016 budget will be amended to reflect a more accurate estimate of state revenue and accounts for any discrepancies between the projected estimate that was passed last year and actual revenue obtained. We have seen an increase in state revenues each of the past three years, but the most astonishing growth we have seen is in our state’s population. Over the last 5 years, Georgia’s population has grown by more than two million, making us the eighth largest state. Due to additional revenue and population growth, we are able to allow for “new” funding to account for adjustments in the 2016 fiscal year budget. Governor Deal has made recommendations to the Appropriations Committees on where additional funding should be allocated. Highlighted below are a few of the spending changes Governor Deal is proposing for the 2016 amended budget:
$109.9 million in the midterm adjustment to fund student enrollment growth in public K-12 schools and state charter schools
$86 million for increased state support for out-of-home services in the Department of Human Services
$42.8 million for Medicaid enrollment growth and $48.1 million for other Medicaid and PeachCare changes, including restoring funding proposed in the original 2016 budget but not included in last years final budget
$20.2 million for the Move on When Ready initiative, which allows high school students to receive high school credit for post-secondary courses
$154.9 million in money from the general fund for transportation, including replacing Motor Fuel Funds with general funds for debt service on road and bridges
As Georgia’s economy continues to recover from the recession, state revenue and spending have increased. In his State of the State Address last week, the governor announced that the 2017 fiscal year budget proposal is the largest budget in Georgia’s history at $23.7 billion! This is approximately one billion dollars more than the total 2016 fiscal year budget. The governor listed his funding priorities, and as expected, education remains a top priority for 2017. Transportation is also a priority as the proposed budget appropriates over $800 million to help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges. The 2017 proposal also includes the 3% raise for state employees and teachers.
Fifty-four percent, or $559 million of the new general fund will be put towards education
$217.5 million, about 21 percent, is allotted to health care programs, including mental health and developmental disabilities services, and Medicaid.
$78 million, nearly eight percent, is directed to human services programs.
$92 million, or 9 percent of new funding, to corrections and other public safety programs
House Appropriation sub-committees will further study the governor’s budget proposals, eventually passing portions of the suggested budget out of their respective committees. Following this process, those individually passed budgets will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee. If the committee approves the proposals of each sub-committee, we will vote to pass the 2016 / 2017 budget. The budget then makes its way to the Rules Committee, which is the last checks and balance before it heads to the floor for a full vote. If the House passes the budget, it then moves to the Senate side and the process begins all over again.
Although "budget week" has officially come to an end, our work is far from over as we will continue to make changes on proposed budget measures.
As we make our way through the legislative session, I will continue to update you on the latest issues, as well as, the budget. The last day of session, "Sine Die" , is set for Thursday, March 24th. With an aggressive agenda ahead, there is much to be done in the next couple of months! Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve you and as always, if you need anything at all, please feel free to contact my Capitol office anytime!
Representative of the 160th
Georgia House of Representatives