Rep. Ron Stephens, Guest columnist
Members of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committees returned to the Georgia State Capitol for the annual “budget week” which typically begins the day after the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. Governor Brian Kemp gave opening remarks that highlighted his budget recommendations for the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets, which will become legislation that will ultimately guide our state’s spending. Throughout the week, we also heard directly from state agency leaders regarding their budgetary requests, as well as the state economist, who provided a comprehensive overview of Georgia’s economic forecast for this year.
As I mentioned last week, each legislative session, as required by our state constitution, the General Assembly must pass a balanced state budget. After reviewing Gov. Kemp’s budget proposals presented this week, the General Assembly will begin drafting two budget bills: the Amended Fiscal Year 2023 (AFY 2023) budget and the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY 2024) budget. First, the amended budget directs spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year and uses a more accurate estimate of state revenue to account for any differences between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained. Based on updated revenue estimates, the AFY 2023 budget will include approximately $2.3 billion in additional revenue that our state can utilize over the next six months.
Next, the FY 2024 budget will determine state spending for the entire upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1, and this full budget is set at a revenue estimate of $32.4 billion. The governor’s version of the current and upcoming fiscal year budgets includes a range of budgetary items that prioritize the required state spending on education and health care, as well as other important government agencies.
Serving as your State Representative representing parts of Bryan and Chatham counties and Chairing the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee, we are waiting on the start of the Hyundai electrical car plant as it begins development and operations. To develop a highly skilled workforce for this facility and other job-creating projects, the governor’s amended budget proposal includes $130 million to develop two new QuickStart EV training facilities overseen by the state’s technical college system.
Additionally, he also recommends dedicating $166.7 million in the AFY 2023 budget for the state’s Regional Economic Business Assistance program, which would assist local governments with providing incentives to businesses looking to grow their footprint. The governor also seeks to move $35.7 million in existing funds for the OneGeorgia program to establish a Rural Workforce Housing Fund; this new fund would allow local development and housing authorities prepare land for housing developments that would help make the housing market more affordable for local workforces.
Educating Georgia’s young learners continues to be a top priority for the Governor and the General Assembly and heading into this session, we will be investing in our future.
The amended budget includes an additional $745 million and more than $1.1 billion is included in upcoming fiscal year budget for K-12 education.
These investments would fully fund the Quality Basic Education program, increase salaries for certified personnel by $2,000 during the next school year, as well as provide $15 million in grant funding in the year’s amended budget to help paraprofessionals pursue a teaching certification.
The amended budget also includes $25 million for learning loss grants to allow individual schools to create programming that is geared towards closing learning gaps due to the pandemic.
Finally, to address the increasing costs of college tuition, the governor proposes using $61.2 million in the FY 2024 budget to fully fund the Georgia’s HOPE scholarship and grant awards at 100 percent of tuition at all Georgia public higher education institutions.
It is anticipated that full-time students would save an average of $444 annually while earning their degrees, and these saving would help ensure more students than ever can reduce the out-of-pocket costs of college and remove barriers from achieving the education necessary to equip our future workforce.
I will continue to be your voice in dealing with problems or questions about your state government.
I encourage you to contact me with your input and thoughts on proposed legislation or current events that may impact our community. I am in 226-A of the State Capitol.
My office phone number is (404) 656-5115 and my email is ron. email@example.com.
I look forward to continuing this session and serving all of you.