Modified Georgia budget with more pay, reimbursements near pass

A modified Georgia budget that includes salary increases for employees, more money for education and an earmarking for tax refunds passed the state Senate on Thursday by a vote of 52 votes. against 0, as he approaches Governor Brian Kemp’s office.

Although the bill provides even larger increases than those originally proposed for prison guards and school nurses, it cuts additional funds that could have gone to elected officials and judges, which senators say would have been illegal.

The House must agree to Senate changes in House Bill 910, covering the budget year ending in June, before the measure is forwarded to Kemp. It spends $30 billion in state taxes and $54 billion in total.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Republican from Vidalia, said strong tax collections helped the Georgian government recover financially from cuts imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he said, the state government “is standing on top of the hill wondering what might be on the other side.”

The bill includes $5,000 wage increases for university and state agency employees, $2,000 bonuses for teachers and $1,000 bonuses for other K-12 workers. Grade 12, including school bus drivers, part-time employees and cafeteria employees. It also restores $383 million to the state’s K-12 funding formula that was cut when lawmakers feared a drop in revenue early in the pandemic.

Beyond spending, the document also provides $1.6 billion for state income tax refunds. A separate bill to pay these rebates is advancing through the House.

State and university employees who have been on payroll since July 1 will receive a $3,750 bonus for time worked through March 30 and a $1,250 pay raise over the three remaining months of the year.

In addition to the $5,000 increase for state employees, the Senate plan would add an additional $4,000 for guards at state jails and juvenile detention centers, which would cost $8 million. dollars.

Senators also added $2 million to give school nurses $2,000 in bonuses, instead of the $1,000 bonus proposed by the governor and the House.

Using money it saved elsewhere in the budget, the Senate would set aside nearly $190 million to cover the state’s 20% match for the recent federal infrastructure law.

The Senate plans also continue a trend that began in the House to spend money on construction projects and equipment purchases that the state would normally finance through borrowing. The Senate would spend $20 million on rural downtown development grants and order universities to spend $30 million of their own accumulated money on construction projects instead of using state money.

“If we can take on future responsibilities now, that puts us in a position to be nimble, responsive to the needs of our citizens,” Tillery said.

This year sees a huge spending explosion even as Kemp and lawmakers face re-election later this year, thanks to bountiful state tax collections. A surplus of $2.35 billion remained at the end of the 2021 budget even after filling the state savings account to its legal limit of $4.3 billion. That led the House to agree to Kemp’s plan to give $1.6 billion in tax cuts in April — $250 to each person filing income taxes, $375 to each person who heads a a household and $500 to married persons filing jointly.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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