The House and Senate agreed on a 2009 budget on the night of the 40th legislative day. This budget, totaling $21.2 billion in state funds, totals some $40.1 billion when combined with federal and other sources.
The budget reflected the cuts associated with the $245 million revenue estimate reduction announced by Gov. Sonny Perdue recently. The budget contains a 2.5 percent cost of living adjustment for teachers, state employees and faculty. In addition, some $12.35 million was included for law enforcement pay for GBI, DNR, parole officers, and correctional officers in the Department of Juvenile Justice and addresses pay inadequacies, as well as some salaries, in some agencies.
In addition, some $11.3 million was included for critical and special job pay for nurses, correctional officers and scientists at the GBI as well as some other categories and agencies with demonstrated difficulties in recruitment and retainment.
Highlights of the FY09 budget include:
• $50 million to reduce the education austerity cuts.
• $90 million in new education equalization funds.
• $10 million for low wealth school systems and capital outlay.
• Increases HOPES scholarship for private college students from $3,000 a year to $3,500 a year.
• $15 million in bonds for the lieutenant governor’s new career academies.
• $500,000 to assist with the start costs of the new academies.
• Under the Senate leadership, childcare slots for TANF recipients were increased by some $10 million in new funds and $20 million in total funds.
• Funds for assistance for families who adopt special needs children.
• $6.2 million for 500 new mental retardation waiver slots.
• $1 million to replace lost federal funds for Meal on Wheels program.
• New funds for family violence centers and rape crisis centers.
• $30 million in bonds for beginning work on new reservoirs.
• A total bond investment of $1.046 billion for investment in new schools, roads, water works, mental hospitals and other needs of state agencies.
Bills of interest
The following bills and resolutions passed the Senate this final week of the 2008 Georgia General Assembly:
• H.B. 130: Regulates security freezes of consumer reporting agency reports by consumers. Charge will be set at $3.
• H.B. 188: Provides a jury duty exemption for primary caregivers for someone who cannot be left unattended, so long as the potential juror has an affidavit from a doctor saying no other care alternative can be provided.
• H.B. 470: Rewrites Georgia’s Lemon Law by requiring dealers to provide consumers with an owner’s manual, which should include: e-mail addresses, addresses and phone numbers for the manufacturer. Other items included are: itemized statements for repairs, a written explanation of consumer’s rights and warranty information.
• H.B. 637: Amends the current law to allow local school systems the ability to administer, with state funding, norm-referenced assessments in certain subjects for grades three, five and eight.
• H.B. 790: Designates the third week in the month of October of every year as School Bus Safety Week in Georgia.
• H.B. 791: Designates the third Monday in the month of October of every year as Bus Drivers Appreciation Day in Georgia.
• H.B. 815: Expands the group of employees eligible for membership in the Optional Retirement Plan to include faculty and exempt employees.
Next week’s column will include more bills from sine die and details on the FY09 budget. For more information about the FY09 budget, visit www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/house/budget.
To find out more about any legislation, visit the Legislature’s home page at www.legis.state.ga.us