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Senate passes FY 08 budget
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ATLANTA – The state Senate passed its version of the $20.2 billion Fiscal Year 2008 budget Tuesday 53 to 1 — funding PeachCare for Kids at its present level and fully funding the state’s education budget, returning nearly $50 million in previous austerity cuts to local systems.  

The Senate’s version of the legislation also provides $50 million to buy or protect environmentally sensitive land, and $430 million in Homeowner Tax Relief Grants.

Differences in the Senate and House versions of the budget now will be worked out in Conference Committee prior to the close of the General Assembly on Friday.

“Although we put this budget together in less than 48 hours — it is a long, arduous process to go through,” Sen. Jack Hill, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said following the vote.  “We have spent months working on this budget to ensure that we are doing what is best for Georgia and her residents.

“Because of this work, our colleges and universities will gain critical infrastructure for anticipated growth and we have increased spending on life sciences, research, eminent scholars and libraries.  We are taking care of our children through increases in education and health care funding, we have guaranteed that our public defenders and courts are adequately funded and we have provided tax relief to our homeowners.”

“The environment and economic development are funded at efficient levels. Traffic relief is addressed in this budget and tax cuts are included and the bond package is within the limits of our new debt management plan,” said Sen. Eric Johnson, the president pro tempore of the Senate. “It balances the competing needs of Georgians.”

“PeachCare remains a top priority for us so, under our plan, low income children will maintain access to affordable health insurance,” Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams said. “We also have given public health nurses a pay increase, and this budget will expand health care information transparency. The Senate’s version also increased the funds to support rural health initiatives.”


Senate Funding Highlights

• PeachCare for Kids, $81 million
• Funding for rural health care, $5 million
• Governor’s Land Conservation Program, $45 million
• Go Fish Georgia, $19 million
• Restored money from DOE austerity cuts in 2003 and 2004 to local school systems, $50 million
• Funded the governor’s new GBI initiatives, $2.6 million
• Fully fund the governor’s initiative to update the Georgia Census, $1.3 million
• Flu vaccines for high risk residents, $7 million
• E85 grant program, $500,000
• Expand Mercer’s existing medical school program in Savannah, $5.5 million
• Morehouse School of Medicine operating grant, $800,000
• Increase county jail subsidy from $20 per day to $30 per day, $2.8 million
• Charter school grants, $2 million
• Ten percent salary increase for national board certified teachers, $1.3 million
• Quality Basic Education Act for Children in custody, $4 million
• Fund textbooks and instructional materials for the Georgia Academy for the Blind, $100,000
• Public School Employees Retirement System increase rate from $14 per month to $14.50 per month, $2.6 million
• Fund Grassroots Arts Program, $250,000
• Funds to raise nurse salaries to 85 percent of the market in all public hospitals, $3.5 million
• Fund suicide prevention activities, $300,000
• Three percent pay increase for all law enforcement who didn’t receive the 3 percent pay increase last year, $2.9 million
• Funds the “Georgia Fire Officer Development Act”, $750,000
• Funds for College of Agriculture at the University of Georgia, $375,000
• Funds for repair and renovation needs at facilities in the Georgia Public Library System, $2.5 million
• Funds for infrastructure at the UGA Griffin Campus, $1.3 million
• Funds for Eminent Scholars at Georgia Southern University and Kennesaw State University, $1 million
• DTAE funds to cover FY07 shortfall, $1 million
• Funds to support the state’s airports, $5 million