House and Senate Approve Georgia’s FY 2021 Budget

On Sine Die, the last day of the legislative session, the Georgia House and Senate approved the state’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 budget, which begins on July 1. The Senate passed an updated budget proposal yesterday evening, and the House approved $2.2 billion in budget cuts today.

Appropriations leaders reduced some cuts and restored about $400 million in funding from a previous budget proposal. They added $19.7 million to provide six months of Medicaid coverage for new Georgia mothers. Leaders also stated no state agency will need to furlough employees, although decisions on whether to implement furloughs will be made by individual agencies.

However, this budget still includes a nearly $1 billion cut to public education funding, a $242 million cut to schools in the university system, a $29 million cut to services for adults with developmental disabilities and more. This budget represents the largest cuts to state spending since the worst year of the Great Recession.

It’s clear every state agency now faces tough decisions with $2.2 billion cut overall from Georgia programs and services. Some highlights of the updated budget include:

K-12 Public Education

  • $950 million cut from the Quality Basic Education program, the formula that dictates the bulk of state spending for K-12 public education
  • $142 million added for enrollment growth, as well as teacher training and experience
  • A $25 million reduction in funding for school counselors, which the House originally included to ensure the state met the minimum counselor-to-student ratio of 450:1
  • $8.8 million added to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for programs like the Governor’s Honors Program and Growing Readers
  • $927,000 added to pupil transportation for enrollment growth; state funding for student transportation is now roughly equivalent to funding levels in FY 2000 despite an increase of more than 300,000 students since

Higher Education

  • $242 million cut to schools in the University System of Georgia and $36 million cut to schools in the Technical College System of Georgia; budget cuts could result in downsizing and elimination of programs, instructional site closures, elimination of student success initiatives and more
  • 12 percent cut to Adult Education
  • 11 percent cut to agricultural programs like the Cooperative Extension Service, which largely serves rural Georgians
  • $11 million in cuts to Dual Enrollment expected from the 30-hour cap and limits on courses students can take created in HB 444
  • A 3 percent cut to public libraries, down from 11 percent in previous proposals
  • $1 million added to the REACH Georgia scholarship program, a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program; all other state-funded scholarships will see a 10 percent cut

Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

  • $91 million cut to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities budget
  • $29 million cut to services for adults with developmental disabilities
  • $22.7 million cut to child and adolescent mental health services, including prevention programs and supported education and employment services
  • $7.2 million cut to adult mental health services, including cuts to core behavioral health services, reductions in peer workforce training and services and cuts to housing vouchers for people with mental illnesses
  • $5.7 million cut to adult substance abuse services, mostly for funds that would expanded residential treatment services

Community Health

  • Total state funding increased by $178 million, mostly to account for higher projected growth for Medicaid
  • $19.7 million added to provide six months of Medicaid coverage for new mothers; this coverage extension must still receive federal approval
  • $12 million added to increase funding available for Rural Hospital Stabilization grants
  • Restored many cuts to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, including no cuts to medical school operating grants

Public Health

  • $8.2 million in cuts to the Department of Public Health budget
  • Funding restored for grants to local health departments
  • $2.3 million reduction in funding for trauma center readiness and uncompensated care
  • $1.9 million cut to health promotion funds, including reductions in grants for organizations doing research and education about sickle cell disease and cancer and reduced funds for feminine hygiene products
  • No reduction in funding for maternal mortality review board 

Human Services

  • $34 million cut to the Department of Human Services (DHS) budget, which now represents a 4 percent overall cut
  • $46 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds the agency planned to use to fund foster care are no longer in the budget; TANF is meant to provide limited emergency cash assistance to low-income families with children.
  • $3.7 million in cuts to vacant positions in child welfare
  • $3 million in cuts to vacant positions at the state office for DHS
  • The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA) will see a $1.6 million reduction in funds for Pre-Employment and Training Services for individuals with disabilities, as well a $866,000 cut to reflect the elimination of roughly 127 positions in GVRA’s work assistance program

Department of Corrections

  • $82.9 million cut to the Department of Corrections, representing a 7 percent decrease in funding
  • $12.6 million cut from private prisons
  • State prisons will see $9 million in reduced funds to reflect the governor’s intent to eliminate 193 vacant non-security positions, as well as another $8.7 million cut. Those cuts will lead to the elimination of vacancies and other administrative changes.
  • $5.7 million cut from health contractual services
  • $3 million reduction in funds for inmate transportation to reflect implementation of the virtual court system in facilities statewide

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