It took some heavy lifting on the part of a lot of people, but that hard work resulted in a supplemental appropriations bill for FY2020 that members of the House of Representatives could have confidence in.
Following my presentation of numerous amendments to the governor’s recommended budget, the Georgia House of Representatives on Feb. 19 passed House Bill 792 by a 2-1 margin.
As required by the state constitution, the House did not exceed Gov. Kemp’s reduced revenue forecast of $27.3 billion for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. We did look for cuts elsewhere in the government so we could restore funding to areas that are high priorities to the legislature.
Those priorities include ongoing support of expanded mental health services — both core services and crisis intervention services; funding for the criminal justice system, including public defenders, accountability courts, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab; funding for county health departments, public libraries, cooperative extension services and Family Connection programs around the state.
HB792 also provides about $998,000 in start-up funds for the statewide Business Court that was approved by voters in a 2018 referendum, as well as $200,000 in start-up funds for the Georgia Hemp Program that was authorized last year.
While the public school system was exempt from budget cuts, the state schools for hearing- or visually-impaired students were not. The House restored $1.5 million in funding for the three state schools, half of which will be used for repairs and rehabilitation of their campuses.
In addition to restoring $2.6 million for public health grants to county health departments, the House bill restores funding to the Mercer School of Medicine and the Morehouse School of Medicine. Both schools are helping to ensure we have an adequate supply of primary and specialist physicians in the state.
We also restored funding for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center housed at Mercer; loan repayment awards for rural physicians, dentists, physician assistants and advanced-practice nurses; and $150,000 for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia’s mobile testing unit. Georgia has the nation’s fourth-highest incidence of sickle cell disease, and 60 percent of our cases are in rural areas of the state.
In addition, HB792 restores funding to the Georgia Poison Control Center, to Georgia’s Trauma Care Network Commission, to Georgia Memory Net, to the Bobby Dodd Institute and to the Marcus Autism Center.
The Georgia Senate now is adding its funding priorities to the mid-year appropriations bill. A conference committee will come up with a final bill to be approved by both chambers. Then the bill will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
The House Appropriations Committee in the meantime is working on the full budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which starts July 1.
For this budget, the governor has called for even more spending cuts. However, state revenues since the start of this year have begun ticking upward. I am hoping that by the time this bill gets through the legislature at the end of the session, an improved state revenue picture will make some of the cuts unnecessary.
Thank you for the opportunity to represent District 116. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at 404-463-2245 or at email@example.com. May God bless you and your family, this wonderful county, and our great state.