State government employees and teachers got a late Christmas gift when Gov. Nathan Deal announced plans to give them a raise during his State of the State address before the General Assembly. The two-term governor also discussed his plans for reforming education and provide additional resources for teachers.
Acting upon the momentum built from his address, Deal released his budget recommendations to the General Assembly for the amended current and upcoming fiscal years. The proposed budgets would bolster resources for education, the state’s transportation network, public safety, health care, economic development, and efficiency in government.
“My team and I have worked diligently with our state agencies to produce meaningful recommendations that will resonate in the lives of Georgians,” said Deal. “This includes investing in education, prioritizing our transportation needs and continuing to spur economic growth. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to move forward with these priorities, as we balance our budget and store up crucial reserves for rainy days.”
FY2017 budget highlights include:
· $23.7 billion in total state appropriations
· $300 million additional funds intended for teacher salary increases
· $26.2 million for Pre-K teacher pay raises
· $825 million in new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation
· Salary increases for state employees
Recommended state appropriations total $23.7 billion for the next fiscal year. If approved, the governor’s amended fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 budgets would, for example, assist local school systems as they work to provide teachers with raises while keeping students and teachers in the classroom for full calendar years. The additional $300 million for this purpose, combined with other funding, would bring the total additional dollars added for K-12 education over the past three fiscal years to more than $1.5 billion. The governor’s recommendations also include significant support for Pre-K teachers who dedicate themselves to setting the state’s youngest learners on track for success.
In addition, the proposals would help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges to keep freight and commuters moving safely and efficiently. Legislation passed last year, House Bill 170, has resulted in over $800 million in additional appropriations for transportation for fiscal year 2017.
The budgets as proposed would also provide for salary increases to help recruit and retain high-performing state employees, including for jobs with large amounts of turnover, to enhance services provided for Georgians; continue promoting reduced caseloads for individuals working to protect the state’s most vulnerable children; and advance Georgia’s justice reform efforts, which are yielding positive results.
The General Assembly will use the governor’s recommendations as a starting point to develop and pass the state’s budget, which the governor will then sign or veto. The governor can also veto line items within the as-passed version. The final budgets specify how much state funding various agency programs will receive. The current fiscal year ends June 30, and fiscal year 2017 begins July 1.