Last year, the Georgia General Assembly passed the mid-year supplemental appropriations bill just minutes before the 2020 session was suspended due to the pandemic. It was two full months before we could safely resume work under the Gold Dome.
With the pandemic now posing a continuing challenge, House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan directed the appropriations committees in the House and Senate to fast-track work on this session's two budget bills — supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year and appropriations for the new fiscal year starting July 1.
Last week, we held joint budget hearings where Gov. Brian Kemp on Jan. 19 presented his funding recommendations.
The governor’s proposal includes more than $647 million in additional funding for K-12 education in the amended FY2021 budget and $573 million more for FY2022. This would fully fund enrollment growth, regardless of enrollment reductions due to COVID-19. He said he also anticipates more than $3.5 billion from the federal Education Stabilization Fund for Georgia’s educational system to ensure that students receive the best possible instruction throughout the pandemic.
To support the critical role of the state’s transportation system, which fuels our tourism and logistics industries, and helps attract businesses with new jobs, the governor is recommending additional investments of nearly $200 million in each budget for the Georgia Department of Transportation. His bond package includes $100 million to repair and replace bridges, plus $10 million to upgrade the state’s more than 1,000 miles of short-line railways that support our manufacturing and agricultural industries.
For rural Georgia, Gov. Kemp recommends an appropriation of $20 million in the amended budget and an additional $10 million each year going forward to the OneGeorgia Authority to establish a broadband infrastructure grant program to provide rural communities money to leverage federal, local and private resources for much-needed broadband expansion.
The governor also wants to include additional state funding for health care: more than $300 million in FY2022 for Medicaid and PeachCare, and $76 million to implement the Patients First Act to increase coverage solutions for low-income Georgians.
The state’s fiscal economist, Jeffrey Dorfman, told the joint committees that Georgia’s successful economic recovery during the pandemic is due to three factors: Gov. Kemp’s decision to begin reopening the economy early; the ingenuity of business owners who figured out how to operate safely; and increased federal support for unemployed Georgians.
As a result of those actions, tax collections that fund not only the state government, but also the public schools, colleges and other agencies, were much stronger than anticipated a year ago at budget time. Dorfman said our economy would continue to improve as the pandemic is brought under control by COVID-19 vaccines.
As appropriations chairman, I am scheduled to present the amended appropriations bill on the House floor Thursday, Jan. 28, with the chamber’s vote immediately afterwards. We will immediately transmit the bill to the Senate for its input. Then we move on to the full-year budget for the new fiscal year.
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, our great state, and our nation.