Fellow Georgians, the original budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (July 1, 2020, through June 30) had a $25.9 billion revenue estimate, with deep cuts for all agencies. Those cuts were expected to be necessary due to declining tax revenues because of COVID-19.
Our state’s financial situation has improved dramatically since we passed the initial budget last summer, and the governor increased the revenue estimate by over $654 million. This additional revenue was included in the Amended Budget for Fiscal Year 2021. We used this additional revenue to prioritize education and restored 60 percent of the reductions made to K-12 education.
After these restorations, QBE is only under-funded by 4 percent -- a significant improvement from where we were last summer. The budget includes funding for 500 new school buses across the state. These new buses include enhanced safety features and are more fuel-efficient.
Our budget includes an additional funding restoration for agriculture education of more than $500,000 and technology/career education of more than $800,000.
In support of Georgia’s No. 1 industry, agriculture, we restored almost $3 million to the budget for agricultural experiment stations and more than $2.6 million for the Cooperative Extension Service. Forestry Research and the Forestry Cooperative Extension received more than $250,000.
To support our healthcare institutions of higher learning, we restored funding for the Medical College of Georgia Hospital/Clinic in the amount of $1,627,793. We also increased funding for grants for public health, crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We put additional money in the budget for IT infrastructure for public health to facilitate better efficiency in the department. Our budget also recognized $2.7 billion in federal funds that will be used to help state agencies, colleges and universities, and Georgia school systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We provided $18 million to replace and modernize the Department of Public Health’s programs for data analysis and evaluation to help DPH address the COVID-19 pandemic and provide ongoing infrastructure improvements. Almost $300,000 was included in the budget for a chief medical officer, a deputy commissioner of public health, and a chief data officer that will provide ongoing public health leadership and additional support for the COVID-19 pandemic response.
We allocated over $1 billion in federal funds to DPH for laboratory capacity, COVID-19 vaccine preparedness, public health crisis response and other identified needs. In the updated budget, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation received over $400,000 to recruit and retain medical examiners. The GBI’s medical examiners currently perform almost double the number of autopsies per year that industry standards recommend. This budgetary increase will make our GBI more competitive when recruiting these specialty doctors that are in high demand.
The budget also supported the Governor’s recommendation for over $200,000 in new funding for the GBI gang database that allows law enforcement agencies across the state to coordinate their information and keep our communities safe. We will continue to focus on Georgians’ needs as we begin our work in earnest on the budget for Fiscal Year 2022.
As we engage in the 2021 Session, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail (Jon.Burns@house.ga.gov), or participate on Facebook (www.FB.com/JonBurnsGA). It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.