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House trying to add back to education in amended budget
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The Georgia General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget and the House accomplished the first step in the process last week. On Friday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 741, the amended fiscal year 2012 budget, which will end on June 30.

Each year the amended budget takes into account the difference between the expected revenue used to create the fiscal year budget and a more accurate estimate obtained halfway through that fiscal year. The amended budget also allows us to account for differences in the number of students we expected to be enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade when we passed the budget last year and the number of students actually enrolled.

This year, the very slight economic growth of $102 million in state revenues, in conjunction with a 1 percent withdrawal from the state’s Revenue Shortfall Reserve and some other very slight adjustments, constitute a 1.39 percent increase in state revenue, bringing the total AFY 2012 state budget to $18.5 billion.

The AFY 2012 state budget includes an added $85.9 million for student growth and $7.7 million in supplemental grants for special charter schools. The House proposed AFY 2012 budget also includes $6.4 million in stipends for all qualifying math and science teachers, including the 939 teachers who earned the stipend but have not received it for the past two years because of a computer coding error.

The AFY 2012 state budget also provides health care programs for children and the indigent. This includes $66.1 million in Medicaid and PeachCare funding, as well as $21.6 million in the Indigent Care Trust Fund for the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program. Additionally, the amended budget restores the 1/2 percent provider rate cut that was reflected in the original FY 2012 budget that we passed last year.

Other noteworthy investments in the AFY 2012 budget include restoring GBI agent positions and funding a fraud detection computer program for the Department of Revenue, which will actually show an immediate return on investment after this tax season.

In an effort to simplify bureaucratic red tape, this week we also passed House Bill 806.  HB 806 frees up prior year motor fuel funds so that they can be used on public roads and bridges. Prior year motor fuel dollars are motor fuel revenues that were previously appropriated and spent in prior fiscal years, but were reimbursed to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) by the federal government or released by projects completed under budget.

Due to technicalities in current state law, departments and state authorities cannot redirect these prior year motor fuel funds to current programs. As a result, the reimbursed funds sit in an account, untouchable and unusable — caught in bureaucratic limbo.

Fortunately, HB 806 changes that by creating a Mandatory Appropriation Carryover Program, which allows up to 20 percent of prior year motor fuel dollars to be rolled over into the next fiscal year. These funds are then authorized for use in GDOT’s mission to provide an adequate system of public roads and bridges. This program will allow us to begin utilizing the near $1 billion in prior year motor fuel funds that cannot currently be used by the state.

Like all legislation, HB 806 and the AFY 2012 budget must still be considered by the state Senate. As this process continues, I will keep you updated on important legislation passed throughout each week, as well as any major changes that the Senate may make to the budget.

In the meantime, 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