The Georgia General Assembly is approaching the final stretch with the finish line in sight for the 2013 legislative session. With an aggressive calendar throughout this session, legislators could return home to our districts before April.
Following the constitutional mandate to balance Georgia’s budget, we passed the House version of the budget, HB 106. The FY 2014 state budget totals $19,864,261,481 in state funds, a number set by the governor’s forward-looking revenue estimate. This budget will direct spending for all state agencies, departments, and programs from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.
While the $19.8 billion state budget reflects an increase of $539 million in state revenues, this is only a slight 2.78 percent increase from the FY 2013 amended state budget. This increase allowed us to meet increased costs and partially restore some important programs in the FY 2014 budget.
The budget remains austere because state revenue is increasing at a very modest rate. When adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollar values, our state is spending 17 percent less per capita than it was a decade ago.
The House version of HB 106 gives the lion’s share of the additional $539 million to education, which will net $268.8 million. That includes an increase of $236 million for K-12 education and another $13.5 million for pre-kindergarten, part of which will allow Georgia pre-K to add 10 more days to its school year.
The FY 14 state budget also fully funds Quality Basic Education (QBE) enrollment growth of 1.4 percent for 23,922 new students, as well as training and experience pay raises for teachers. The budget increases HOPE Scholarships and Grants by 3 percent for the more than 200,000 HOPE recipients, and restores $6 million to allow the Technical College System to maintain teaching faculty that will be needed for its anticipated 9,000 new students.
The second-largest increase in state funding will go to Georgia’s health and human services agencies, which will net an additional $197.8. HB 106 restores $13.8 million of proposed cuts to community healthcare providers, like nursing homes, $528,871 for 17 family service worker positions who provide direct elder living care, and $484,559 for Alzheimer’s and respite services. Moreover, the FY 14 budget provides $4.8 million for the first payment increase in 10 years for foster care service providers who watch over the more than 2,200 special-needs foster children in the state who have significant physical, emotional and behavioral needs.
The House version of the FY 14 state budget would increase road project funding by $42.1 million. It would also provide $8.1 million for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority to keep the Xpress buses running throughout the 13-county metro Atlanta area that draws riders from 40 counties.
It further adds $4.3 million to help the GBI and Department of Natural Resources retain experienced, certified personnel by providing competitive salaries. Additionally, the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission is fully funded with an increase to maintain database enhancements.
Like all legislation, the FY 2014 state budget must still be considered by the state Senate. This means that HB 106 may change as we work alongside our Senate counterparts.
As this process continues, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding our state. You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.