by Dave Williams | Capitol Beat News Service
Gov. Brian Kemp is asking the General Assembly to approve a record $30.2 billon state budget heavy with new spending on schools, health care and public safety.
The fiscal 2023 budget, which takes effect in July, takes advantage of a huge revenue surplus driven by higher-than-expected state tax collections. The timing is fortuitous for Kemp, who is running for reelection this year facing both Republican primary and general election opposition.
The state’s robust financial outlook is allowing the governor to fulfill a commitment he made on the campaign trail in 2018 to give teachers a $5,000 pay raise.
The fiscal 2023 budget would include a $2,000 raise for teachers who received the first $3,000 increase three years ago.
In addition, the $29.9 billion fiscal 2022 mid-year budget Kemp is proposing would give school administrators and support staff a one-time salary supplement of $2,000, while $1,000 would go to school bus drivers, nurses, nutrition workers and part-time school employees.
Kemp’s health-care spending requests focus particularly on rural Georgia. He is recommending $1 million to support programs at Mercer University aimed at addressing a shortage of physicians in rural parts of the state.
Kemp also wants to expand Medicaid coverage for new mothers from six months to a full year.
Besides the teacher pay raise, the governor also is calling for a $5,000 increase for law enforcement personnel and other state employees.
On the crime front, he is looking to build on existing initiatives targeting street gangs by funding a new anti-gang unit in the state attorney general’s office.
Kemp also is asking for more than $7 million to upgrade the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab equipment and hire 32 additional staff in the crime lab and medical examiner’s office to handle their increased volume.
The state’s coffers also are healthy enough to pay for a nearly $1.3 billion package of bond projects.
Highlights include $80 million toward the expansion of the Savannah Convention Center, a $210 million project that already has received substantial bond funding.
The bond package also puts $37.1 million toward Phase I of the Science Hill modernization project on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens, $28.5 million to build a Technical and Industrial Education building at Southern Regional Technical College in Moultrie and $28 million for the Gateway Building at Georgia Gwinnett College.
The mid-year and fiscal 2023 budgets will get a first airing next week at joint hearings of the Georgia House and Senate Appropriations committees.
This story available is through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.