Neither snow, nor sleet seem likely to slow Georgia’s 2014 legislative session.The sine die gavel is now scheduled to drop March 20, 2014. The General Assembly is set to return from its snow break Monday to resume its work on its only constitutionally required bill, the 2015 fiscal year budget, or HB 744. The state House Appropriations Committee passed the budget out of committee earlier this week, with the full chamber expected to take up the spending plan Monday.
The governor’s state employee and Board of Regents merit based salary increase proposal of $50.8 million, as well as a proposal to restore some of the K-12 funding formula austerity cut of $314.3 million remain. As noted in my blog last week, it is unlikely all state employees will receive a pay raise and many teachers will continue to go without a base salary cost-of-living increase, an omission that stretches back several years. The budget appears to include enough money so most school districts can return to the standard 180 day school calendar and eliminate teacher furlough days.
The budget incorporates most of the cuts to the education, health, safety and regulatory programs and services made over the past five years, including an approximate $750 million austerity cut in the K-12 funding formula. Waiting lists and work backlogs are still prevalent throughout state government.
The most significant changes to the governor’s proposal include:
- $874,000 for a 0.5 percent increase for developmental disability providers
- $250,000 for 64 additional supported employment slots for people with developmental disabilities
- $321,000 to initiate the Adult Day Center facility license program
- $6.8 million to increase the operating grants for medical education for the Mercer University School of Medicine by $1.8 million and the Morehouse School of Medicine by $5 million)
- $460,816 to increase the annual foster care clothing allowance by $100 per child
- $750,000 for Meals on Wheels and senior center nutrition programs
- $4.5 million for Airport Aid to match local and federal money for regional airport projects
The state senators are expected to take their turn reviewing the budget later next week.