Georgia’s state senators continue to usher a proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year through the legislative process at a record pace. Senators approved their version of HB 744, better known as the state budget, on March 6, 2014 the thirty-third day of this year’s legislative session. The budget bill will is now in the hands of the House-Senate Conference Committee, which is charged with working out differences between the House and Senate version of the latest version of the state’s 2015 spending plan.
The Senate version of the budget is much the same as both the House version and the governor’s budget proposal unveiled in January. Among the changes senators propose is to allot $10 million to finance a state venture capital fund.
The governor’s state employee and Board of Regents merit based salary increase proposal at a cost of $50.8 million, as well as the proposal to partially restore the K-12 funding formula austerity cut with $314.3 million is unchanged. It remains unlikely all state employees will receive a pay raise and relatively few teachers are likely to receive a base salary cost-of-living increase. Money should be adequate to assure most school districts can return to a full 180-day school calendar and eliminate teacher furlough days.
Still, the budget incorporates most of the cuts to the education, health, safety and regulatory programs and services made over the past five years. That includes about $750 million in austerity cuts to the K-12 funding formula. Waiting lists for services and work backlogs are still prevalent throughout state government.
The most significant changes senators made to the House version of the budget include:
- $10 million in initial funding for the Invest Georgia Fund. Invest Georgia is a venture capital fund lawmakers created during the 2013 General Assembly
- $8.9 million for Airport Aid to match local and federal funds for regional airport projects. The House version proposed $4.5 million
- $2.0 million in state funds to leverage $5.4 million in federal money for Vocational Rehabilitation services
- $1.9 million for a 1.5 percent increase for developmental disability providers. The House proposed a.5 percent increase
- – $15.5 million – a cut to the teaching program in the Board of Regents budget
- $872 million in bond funds for various capital projects, an increase of $59 million more than the House version and $109 million more than the governor’s proposal.