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Work on the budget begins in earnest
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The General Assembly’s number one responsibility each session is to pass two balanced state budgets: an amended budget for the current fiscal year and a full budget for the following fiscal year.

The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year.  State spending set by the 2014 budget is adjusted or “trued up” to reflect actual revenue collected and funds expended as identified during the first half of the fiscal year that began in July 2013.

Since all fiscal bills are required to originate in the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I quickly turned our attention toward the amended budget for FY 2014 by conducting a series of House Appropriations subcommittee hearings during our second week at the Gold Dome.

Throughout the second week, appropriations subcommittees met to hear from heads of state agencies and learn about their perspectives on the amended budget.  We took this opportunity to examine every part of the amended budget and ensure that state agencies are efficiently stretching their allotted funds to best serve Georgians.

After the subcommittee hearings concluded, the subcommittees each passed their respective portions of the budget. The whole House Appropriations Committee then reviewed and passed a balanced budget for the remainder of FY 2014. House Bill 743 passed the House overwhelmingly.

The figures in HB 743 were very similar to what Governor Deal proposed in his budget recommendations. Because state revenues have increased, we were able to add $300 million to the budget for amended fiscal year 2014 (AFY 2014), which is about a 1.5 percent increase from when we started the fiscal year. This will ultimately increase our overall state spending for 2014 from $19.9 billion to $20.2 billion.

Over half of the “new” funds in the AFY 2014 went to K-12 education. An increase of approximately $180 million is the mid-year adjustment for K-12 education. In addition, a portion of these new funds will go to economic development initiatives in OneGeorgia, Regional Economic Business Assistance grants and transportation items. For these projects, HB 743 adds $51.5 million for the Department of Community Affairs and $27 million to the Department of Transportation. We were also able to add $25 million to pay for increased enrollment in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids health care programs.

One important portion of HB 743 that impacts our area is emergency funds intended to repair the Ogeechee Railroad Line. This state-owned, short line railroad serves as an important economic tool in Effingham and Screven counties.  Traffic has steadily increased on the line, but the line was taken out of service due to weather related damages.

I will work with my colleagues in the Senate and the governor’s office to ensure that the critical $300,000 in emergency funds remains in the budget.

As the budget moves through the legislative process, I will update you on its status. I will also keep you informed about other pieces of important legislation that arise during this legislative session. Please contact me about any state issues that are particularly important to you or your family.

As your representative I am here to serve as your voice.  You can reach me at my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or email me at