Thursday, Feb. 2, concluded the fourth week of the legislative as we completed legislative day 12 of 40. Committee meetings are in full swing as we continue to vet legislation under consideration.
The most significant action taken that week was overwhelming passage of House Bill 18, the 2023 amended fiscal year budget. Also known as the “baby budget,” HB 18 is our House proposal for changes to the original 2023 fiscal year budget passed last year. HB 18 has now moved to the Senate Appropriations Committee where they will review our suggested changes. Below are just a few highlights of what we passed out of the House chamber.
• $1 billion in property tax relief grants for Georgia taxpayers.
• $23 million in school security grants for our Safer Schools Initiative.
• $5 million in funds for technology, safety and security projects within our state prisons.
• $4.9 million for one-time election equipment replacement and upgrades.
• $4 million for Georgia Crime Victim Emergency Fund.
• $3.5 million for GBI to maintain Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC).
• $3.3 million in the Department of Education to heavy equipment construction industry programs to train young Georgians on how to pursue a career within this industry.
• $2.4 million to upgrade security at 48 domestic violence shelters statewide, used to protect women and children who have escaped domestic violence.
• $1.6 million to ensure parity for all state employees in the implementation of the $5,000 cost of living adjustment.
• $1 million for Georgia Military College needs.
• $35.7 million to establish the Rural Workforce Housing Fund.
We have received questions as to what some of these funding measures will benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions in regard to our suggested recommendations.
What falls under rural workforce housing?
This funding has been successful in many sister states as an avenue to provide grants for local governments to keep up with infrastructure demands due in part to rapid growth. Funds will be put towards road construction, sewer installation and maintenance, utility expansion and similar projects.
Are we decreasing school funding by decreasing property taxes?
The funds utilized for property tax relief are meant to make localities whole. While Georgia homeowners will see a reduction in their tax bills, local government revenues will stay the same. Under this budget, we fully fund Quality Basic Education (QBE) — the state funding formula that governs the portion of local education funded by the state.
If we increase teacher salaries, pay, and benefits, does that impact local school systems?
The pay increases included in our budget are the state’s portion of raises for our teachers. We have provided the funding mechanism to allow a raise in pay for our hardworking teachers. However, it will be up to the local school boards to decide whether to spend this funding on pay increases or other items the district deems more important.
A closer look
• $150,000 in the Department of Agriculture for the Tifton Veterinary Laboratory to recommission accredited operations.
• $249,800 for the Georgia Poultry Labs to upgrade robotic equipment and replace five high-mileage vehicles.
• $766,812 to implement the “Georgia Raw Dairy Act” (2022 session).
• $166.7 million in the Department of Community Affairs to fund large economic development projects in the state.
• Reallocation of $5 million from the Rural Innovation Fund to match the $65 million federal grant for the Georgia Artificial Intelligence Manufacturing (GA AIM) Project benefiting Southwest Georgia.
• Redirects $7 million to the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) for renovation upkeep. The center averages more than 3 million visitors annually and has a yearly economic impact of $1.6 billion.
• $1 million to complete the construction of the Savannah Convention Center expansion; $650,000 for the Savannah Logistics Innovation Center to support the logistics and supply chain industry; and $77,610 for the Georgia Historical Society to maintain markers.
• Additional $1.3 million to the Georgia Forestry Commission for vehicle purchases and increased fuel expenses related to forest management and fire protection.
• $128.2 million to the Department of Education for the Quality Basic Education
• $138.8 million in school security grants in the amount of $60,000 per school, allowing local school systems flexibility in allocating funds system-wide to enhance security.
• $5 million for reimbursable grants for paraprofessionals who are enrolled, on or after Jan. 1, 2023, and earn a certificate through a Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy (GaTAPP) program. A paraprofessional must have a bachelor’s degree and currently work in a public school to qualify. The reimbursement would cover the full cost of the GaTAPP program.
• $1.25 million for a state match for a new character education program grant at $50,000 per school.
• $3.5 million to the Professional Standards Commission to overhaul its educator certification and ethics system to provide better efficiency and improved security.
• $105 million in the Board of Regents for the Medical College of Georgia Hospitals and Clinics to implement a new electronic medical record system.
• $1.16 million is provided in the Agricultural Experiment Station budget for the Integrated Precision Agriculture Demonstration Farm in Perry.
• $100,000 for a vertical farming greenhouse study, which will inform the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences on what research and industry outreach to pursue.
• $5.7 million for the Middle Georgia State University Aviation Program to purchase aircraft and build t-hangars.
• $405,000 for additional staff at the Georgia Student Finance Commission to support commission operations and student access to financial aid programs.
• $6.25 million in the Technical College System of Georgia for the design of an electric vehicle training center in Newton County.
• $56.2 million to complete an electric vehicle Quick Start training center in Bryan County.
• $10.625 million for the expansion of a Quick Start training center in Chatham County to support electric vehicle manufacturing.
• $14.5 million for a one-time benefit adjustment for retired state employees.
• $500,000 to the Department of Banking and Finance to purchase and implement software that automates the agency’s licensing processes.
• $92 million for the reinsurance program to account for projected increase in claim reimbursements.
• $500,000 to the Department of Labor to address necessary repairs and renovations at offices statewide.
• $1.5 million in the Department of Natural Resources to complete the construction of the Jekyll Island Public Safety Complex.
• $4.2 million to DNR to implement a new statewide public safety radio network.
• $15 million appropriated to the Georgia Building Authority for the demolition of unoccupied state properties.
• $8.2 million for a statewide assessment of facilities under the responsibility of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
• $4.9 million to replace batteries for voting machines, to implement a secure ballot image capture library and to improve the Georgia Registered Voter Information System.
• $491.2 million in savings in the Department of Community Health in the Medicaid programs due to a temporary 6.2% increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.
• $250.8 million for growth in the Medicaid programs to meet the projected need resulting from increased enrollment during the pandemic.
• $188 million in prior and current year funds from the “American Rescue Plan Act” of 2021 for home and community-based services to support the state spending plan through fiscal year 2025 that includes provider rate enhancements, rate studies, expanded services, workforce development and training, and infrastructure support for case management and data reporting.
• HB 18 provides $4.5 million in PeachCare for Kids to continue a premium suspension through June 30, 2023.
• $1 million for St. Francis Hospital to support the new internal medicine and psychiatric residency programs.
• $9.9 million to renovate the kitchen at Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta
• $4 million to renovate a patient treatment mall at East Central Regional Hospital in Augusta.
• Restores $1.97 million to open offline psychiatric beds at Georgia Regional Hospital.
• $2 million for contract psychiatric beds.
• $825,000 to address homelessness in the Atlanta area.
• $100,000 for technology infrastructure and environmental adaptations for enrolled students.
• $5 million to provide alternative housing options for youth with complex needs in the care of the Division of Family and Children Services.
• $8.4 million for staffing and technology needed for Medicaid redetermination due to the Public Health Emergency.
• $3.5 million in the amended fiscal year 2023 budget to maintain operations of the Georgia Crime Information Center and to offset a reduction in user fee collections.
• $56.4 million in new funding for the Georgia Department of Corrections to make needed repairs, security upgrades and renovations to its aging infrastructure.
• $12.3 million to GDC for physical and pharmaceutical services to continue to provide these necessary services to inmates.
• $1.8 million to the Court of Appeals and $1.5 million to the Supreme Court for a new docket system.
• $485,052 to fully fund a salary increase for circuit public defenders.
• $4 million in new state funds to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund.
• $1.1 billion dollar infusion of surplus state general funds to keep the Georgia Department of Transportation whole after a 10-month suspension of motor fuel tax collections.
• $51.4 million, and the routine maintenance program is boosted by $25 million to meet the rising costs of maintenance service contracts and equipment.
• $1.5 million for use as Federal Transit Administration match money for smaller transit operators across the state to draw down federal grant dollars to enhance services, equipment and infrastructure of their systems.
• $7.8 million to be used to continue to improve airports across the state, and the rail program receives $3 million to continue work on bringing all state-owned short line railroads to Class II standards (286 pounds/25 mph).
Now that we have passed the amended budget, we now set our sights on the full 2024 fiscal year budget. These budgets are expected to change throughout the duration of session until passage in the final days. We anxiously await Senate input and spending recommendations or changes in the coming days. We will keep you posted on any changes.
In the meantime, if you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to contact our office at any time. May God bless you and may he continue to bless the great state of Georgia.