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An austere amended budget
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The first priority of the legislative session is always to pass the budgets. House Bill 77, the amended fiscal year 2011 (AFY 2011) budget, was passed out of the House on Feb. 10. This bill contains Gov. Deal’s recommendations for mid-year adjustments in the 2011 budget that runs through June 30 this year.

Just as private businesses tweak previous funding decisions, the same process occurs in the state budgetary process. House appropriations committees made minor changes to the governor’s recommendations for mid-year budget adjustments. We passed HB 77 by a vote of 136 to 29.

Main points of HB 77, the amended fiscal year 2011 budget include:

The AFY 2011 budget totals $18,052,709,014, or a net increase of $163.3 million dollars.

However, the net increase comes from $152.2 million added from the 1 percent Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR) for the education midterm and $31.1 million in lottery funds added to meet actual expenses for the Hope Scholarship program.

The FY 2011 amended budget includes several additions totaling almost $400 million. To pay for the additions, state agencies have been cut an average of 4 percent, or over $300 million dollars

Among the items included for increased funding:

• $148 million to replace American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds as Congress changed the federal match originally anticipated for the Federal Medical Assistance Program (FMAP). This program funds Medicaid, Behavioral Health and Human Services;

• $83 million to provide for increased K-12 enrollment;

• $56.5 million (with a total State Health Benefit Program fund impact of $85 million) for the SHBP plan to provide coverage and meet projected expenses for teachers and state agencies;

• $12 million to provide differentiated pay for newly certified math and science teachers;

• $13.4 million to fund Behavioral Health needs (community-based beds and services) as part of our agreement with the Justice

Department to address conditions within our mental health delivery systems;

• $8.6 million to fund required actuarial contributions to the Georgia Military Pension Plan and PSERS (Bus Drivers and Lunchroom Personnel);

• $5.8 million for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to keep commuter buses running;

• $10 million for the One Georgia Authority to provide for economic development needs; and

• $31 million to meet actual need for the HOPE Scholarship program.

The House version of HB 77 retains the above, recommended by the governor, and seeks to make two primary improvements including:

The House added $14 million to the governor’s $7.7 million recommendation to fully fund Disproportionate Share Hospitals; and

The House added $5.4 million to the governor’s $11 million recommendation to fully fund actuarial requirements for tax officials’ retirement and protect the state’s AAA bond rating.

The amended fiscal year 2011 budget is austere. Other than revising three or four large items, restoring a few of the more sensitive cuts (hemophilia factor), making a couple of corrections based on later information, and a few tweaks here and there, the House subcommittees made very few changes to the forthright budget proposed by the governor.

The budget now goes to our friends in the Senate for changes or approval as presented.

The House began work on the fiscal year 2012 budget on Monday.  The FY 2012 budget is also known as the “Big Budget.”

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