Recess and Review: Georgia’s Budget

By: Sen. Jeff Mullis (R – Chickamauga)

This week, the Georgia General Assembly recessed in order to begin a series of joint budget hearings at the state capitol. During this process, members of both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees worked together on a careful line-by-line analysis of our state budget. This is a complicated process and requires a thorough account of every taxpayer dollar. In addition to setting the framework for the FY 2014 budget (the “big budget”), the FY 2013 budget (the “little budget”) must be revised to account for unexpected expenses.

Each year, Governor Deal offers his budget recommendations during his “State of the State” address.  These recommendations serve as a guide for legislators during the appropriations process.  It is important that we also hear from the state agencies that are dependent on these funds for basic operations. The Department of Education, Department of Transportation, Georgia Ports Authority and the Department of Economic Development are just a few of the agencies that present their expenditure plans.

For FY 2014, Governor Nathan Deal has proposed a $19.8 billion budget, which is a slight increase from last year’s budget. Our Revenue Shortfall Reserve, or “rainy day” fund, stands at $378 million not counting the amount that will cover K-12 enrollment growth in FY13. This means that in the case of an emergency, our state could continue operations for a full seven days—but we must continue replenishing this reserve account.

Although Georgia’s economy is finally seeing some growth and declining unemployment, we are still navigating our way out of a national recession. Spending reductions are necessary to make sure we spend within our means and balance the state budget. However, even with the slight budget reduction, Gov. Deal maintained funding for key areas such as public safety, health care, education and economic development in his recommendations, including:

  • $147 million to fund enrollment K – 12 enrollment growth
  • K – 12 Needs: $3.8 million provide funding for more school nurses, professional development, and classroom technology
  • Increasing the award amount for HOPE scholarships and grants by 3 percent
  • $246 million to fund Medicaid and PeachCare expense growth and to reduce state funds to offset an increase in federal contributions
  • $35 million to provide funds for mental health, including additional case management services; a new crisis service center, crisis stabilization program and expansion of mobile crisis services; housing for an additional 600 individuals; new supported employment and peer services; and additional options for consumer transportation
  • $25 million in bonds for water supply projects through the Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Environmental Finance Authority
  • $50,000,000 in bonds to expand and deepen the Savannah Harbor
  • $16 million in additional motor fuel funds for road and bridge projects based on anticipated revenue collections

The next step for both the FY 2013 amended budget and the FY 2014 general budget is to go through the legislative process. The proposed budgets will be introduced in the House—all fiscal bills start in the House—and must be passed before traveling to the Senate. Any significant changes in the bill between the House and Senate will require an appointed conference committee made up of members of both chambers to agree on a compromised version of the budget before it can be signed by the Governor.

If I can ever be of service to you, please contact my Senate office at any time. It is an honor to serve the 53rd District at the State Capitol!

For Immediate Release:
January 25, 2013

For Information Contact:
Jennifer Yarber, Interim Director