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Budget sails through the Senate
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

The Senate passed its version of the 2016 general budget with only one dissenting vote.

The $21.7 billion budget includes $977.8 million in lottery funds, along with $998 million in motor fuel funds, and is based on a 3.14 percent increase over FY 2015 amended. A total increase of $484 million will go to education. This includes $280 million in austerity reduction and $152.4 million in QBE growth and teacher pay scale.

State employees are slated for merit based 1 percent pay increases. Some strategic job classifications receive more, totaling $14.2 million.

The budget increases the HOPE Scholarship by 3 percent as well as the HOPE Grant. Also included is $1 million for advanced manufacturing at Georgia Southern University and a $2.6 million investment in the Georgia Film Academy to promote the industry in Georgia and train workers for that industry.

The Senate budget for the first time will provide $1 million to charity clinics for delivery of services.

The Senate also agreed with the House in continuing health insurance for non-certified public school employees and increasing the employer payment to $746.20 per member per month.

The Senate is funding part of the shortfall that primary care physicians and pediatricians lost when federal Medicaid funds were reduced. This totals $19.4 million.

The Senate agreed with the House and governor to hire or transfer some 278 new child protective services caseworkers for DFCS. The budget provides state matching funds for vocational rehabilitation funds that will be matched 4-to-1 with federal funds.

The Senate also added $980,000 for supported employment for young adults with developmental disabilities.

Under Gov. Deal’s leadership, the Department of Corrections is implementing programs to help insure inmates being paroled out of the prison system will have a GED, high school diploma, or a skill like welding to give them every opportunity not to return to prison.

The Senate budget allows the Soil and Water Commission to be administratively attached to the Agriculture Department and restored the cut in the governor’s and House’s budgets.

In bonds, the 4th District has several items including: $4.5 million design and construction for a class room building at East Georgia State College; $33.6 million for a new classroom building at Georgia Southern University; $790,000 in equipment for Southeastern Technical College’s Swainsboro campus; and $650,000 for planning and design of a plant operations and logistics center at Ogeechee Technical College.

The Senate passed its version of HB 170, the transportation bill. The process will now move to a conference committee. Included in the Senate plan:

• Converts the motor fuel sales tax to an excise tax at 24 cents per gallon rate versus the House rate of 29 cents.

• Caps excise tax for both state and local  sales tax at a $3.39 price for fuel.

• Does not take any of local sales tax funds now collected on motor fuel but caps conversion at $3.39 per gallon.

• Sets a $5 per-day rental car fee

• Eliminates three tax exemptions: the fourth-penny fuel sales tax exemption for airlines; sunsets a year early the “back to school” sales tax holiday; and eliminates the tax credit for zero or low emission vehicles.

• Eliminates tax credit for electric cars.

• Obligates $250 million from growth in the 2017 budget and thereafter to pay down debt service for DOT and create cash for transportation needs.

• Provides an income tax credit for commercial carriers like trucks for diesel fuel purchased in Georgia.

• Eliminated through amendment the $25 tag fee in the bill as passed out of committee.

This bill is estimated to bring in $840 million yearly for transportation. No county now collecting the 1 percent TSPLOST is affected.

The budget may be viewed online at:

Legislation, meeting schedules and legislative actions may be accessed at:

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