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Budget reflects lean times
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The governor proposed a $19.3 billion budget for FY13 amended that is similar in total size to the general budget passed last spring.

But due to worrisome revenue collections, he lowered the tax revenue estimate from 5 percent growth over FY12 collections to 4 percent growth. This puts us more in line with economists’ projections. He did utilize $172 million in funds available in the revenue shortfall reserve for K-12 growth to offset this reduction.

In FY14, the governor proposed a $19.8 billion budget that is built on 5 percent tax growth over his FY13 amended estimate. This is a little high from the 3 to 4 percent that economists are projecting. But population growth and increasing mandatory expenses require this much growth, so we will just have to hope for the best.

Governor’s recommendations
• Governor’s Office for Children and Families-the governor proposed $5 million to create grants to incentivize creating community-based options for the juvenile justice system in Georgia’s communities.
• Early Care and Learning- $13 million appropriation proposed to increase the number of days in the pre-kindergarten instructional schedule to a full 180 days.
• K-12 Public Schools- the proposed budget includes $156 million in funds to provide for enrollment growth in FY 2013 as well as $147 million for FY 2014 for enrollment growth as well as the teachers’ experience and training salary schedule.
The governor’s budget also funds the equalization formula at $41 million. FY 2014 marks the first time the equalization program has been fully funded since 2008. The budget proposes $1.6 million ito continue a Reading Mentor Program to help insure students read on grade-level by the time they finish third grade.
• Student Finance Commission- 3 percent increase in HOPE scholarship awards from FY 2013 is proposed in the FY 2014 general budget, which would make a total of $600 million for  HOPE.  
The governor’s proposal also includes $6.5 million in new lottery funds to fund the Industries Workforce Development Grant providing additional funding to students who are enrolled in high demand certificate or diploma programs, such as practical nursing, truck driving, and early childhood care and education.
• Community Health- the governor recommended $247 million to cover additional Medicaid expenses in the FY 2013 amended budget and $256 million in the FY 2014 general budget.
• Judicial Council- the governor proposed $11.6 million to fund accountability courts, which were a major part of last year’s criminal justice reform aimed at saving the state money as well as reducing recidivism rates.
• Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities- for FY 2014 the governor recommended $35 million as part of the fourth year of a settlement with the federal government to add more services for developmentally-disabled patients and other mental health issues in state hospitals.

Hospital fee passes Senate, goes to House
SB 24 passed the Senate last week by a vote of 46-9. The bill essentially continues an existing program of assessing provider fees to hospitals (the current rate is 1.45 percent) in order to receive matching funds for Medicaid expenses from the federal government. SB 24 gives the Department of Community Health, who already levy this fee on nursing homes, the ability to assess and collect this fee.

The federal government matches 65 percent to the state’s 35 percent in providing the funds, so last year $235 million in provider fees led to the federal government providing the state with $454 million to pay Medicaid expenses.

Much like in the nursing home fee, high insurance and private hospitals end up paying the largest burden of the fee. All of the revenue raised by the provider fees is placed in segregated accounts within the Indigent Care Trust Fund and can only be used to fund the state’s share in Medicaid payments. It ultimately doesn’t matter who has control of assessing the fee. The bill gives oversight to the General Assembly in the budget process, as well as through the Administrative Procedures Act which requires the DCH to approve any rule changes with the General Assembly. The bill is set to sunset in 2017.

Next week: A look at the FY14 bond package.

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly website at

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