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Budget passage highlights session

POSTED: March 24, 2014 4:19 p.m.

The 2014 General Assembly session ended with the passage of a $20.8 billion budget to run the state for the next year and featured the first sizable increase in K-12 education spending in more than six years.

The largest single increase was in the QBE funding formula for teaching, which increased $314.3 million and was focused on ending furloughs and getting students and teachers back in the classroom for the full 180 days. Equalization was fully funded at $479.5 million with a $5 million addition, and funding for school nurses increased by $414,585.

A $5 million Innovation Grant Program was created to reward and recognize K-12 innovative initiatives. The bond package included capital outlay funds to build new schools totaling $275.2 million.

Other highlights
Technical colleges gained several new programs:
• Tuition assistance totaling $5 million for high-demand job training like diesel mechanics, welding, health and technology
• $7.3 million for Zell Miller scholarships paying 100 percent tuition for students with a  3.5 GPA or higher
• $2.15 million for tuition and costs for dual-enrolled students.

In lottery funds, Gov. Deal has created a $10 million low-interest loan program.

State employees will receive merit-based 1 percent pay increases, and employees in critical areas such as Corrections, DJJ, and others will get additional increases. Also, GBI and DNR rangers will receive the third installment of a three-year increase package.

The Airport Aid Program will receive new state funds totaling $8 million, which will be matched by federal funds of approximately $20 million to make improvements on airports around the state.

Agriculture received new funds totaling $100,000 for the Georgia Grown program and funds to increase starting pay for food inspectors.

Programs like Meals on Wheels and several disability programs all received new funding.

In Public Health, the legislature added new funding for hepatitis C screenings. Also, new funds were appropriated to establish an Alzheimer’s registry and to train early autism intervention providers for the early diagnosis of children with autism.

The Soil and Water Conservation Service was returned to a stand-alone agency under the budget passed this session.

In Behavioral Health, $34.4 million was appropriated to meet the Department of Justice agreement and will be used to fund 75 new waiver slots for the new options waiver and comprehensive waivers.

Also, there is new funding of $390,625 for supported employment of developmentally disabled young people and $100,000 for post-secondary education for disabled young adults.

In the Department of Human Services, there are a number of new positions to meet the overwhelming demand. The budget adds state funds to retain 235 child support agents where federal funding is going away. It also funds 16 new positions in the Child Protective Services communications center, and $8.l9 million for 175 new Child Protective Service workers.

There are $3.2 million for the state health benefit plan to begin funding Autism therapy for children and children’s hearing aids.

Bonds
An MR&R (maintenance and repair) program was created for the library system, totaling $1.6 million.

Four projects in the Fourth District:
• $9.5 million for a new military science building at Georgia Southern University
• $1.48 million for equipment for the new health services/library building at Southeastern Technical College, Swainsboro campus
• $2.295 million for equipment for Ogeechee Technical College for the new natural resources building
• $2.5 million for the continued rehab of the Nunez to Vidalia rail line.

Stay tuned for next week’s day 40 legislative report.

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at http://www.legis.ga.gov/.

I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7092 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811

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