Monday, February 7 marked the start of the fifth week of the 2022 legislative session. Each day this week grew increasingly longer as more legislation made its way to the House floor, including the bill for the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2022 budget. Not only was this week filled with debates on legislation in the House Chamber and in our committees, but Chief Justice David Nahmias of the Supreme Court of Georgia also delivered the annual State of the Judiciary address in the House Chamber.
This week, we passed one of the most important bills of the legislative session, House Bill 910, to amend the state budget for the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2022. The AFY 2022 budget is set at $29.8 billion, and this amended budget will allow the state to utilize about $2.6 billion in new funds before the current fiscal year ends in July. With these projections in mind, I’d like to bring your attention to the areas of the House’s version of the amended budget that focus on education, health, public safety, as well as the state’s workforce and infrastructure.
This new funding in the amended budget presents a much-needed opportunity to allocate funding towards our state’s aging infrastructure and vital workforce needs. Our budget dedicates more than $900 million to the state’s infrastructure needs, such as replacing agency vehicles and school buses, upgrading state technology and maintenance, repairs, infrastructure and design for state facilities. This AFY 2022 budget also makes a sizeable investment into retaining and recruiting state workers, including an allocation of more than $900 million for salary increases for state employees, educators and other school employees. Before July 1, full-time, benefit-eligible state employees would receive a $5,000 salary adjustment, our teachers would receive a $2,000 supplement, and many other school employees would receive a $1,000 supplement.
Georgia’s K-12 education system is the largest budget expenditure and totals $11.16 billion, or 43.3 percent of the general funds in the state budget. Due to the rebound in state revenues this last year, this amended budget restores $383 million that is needed to fully fund our K-12 education system using the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula. The House’s version of the AFY 2022 budget also includes $93 million in additional QBE funding for enrollment growth of 11,926 new public school students, $188 million to purchase 1,747 public school buses and $5 million to help schools purchase alternative-fuel vehicles.
My colleagues and I were also able to allocate the necessary funds to help promote better health for Georgians, both physically and mentally. HB 910 includes $263 million to meet the projected need from increased enrollment in the state’s Medicaid program. This budget also includes an additional $1.7 million for the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce to fully fund residents in graduate medical education programs. Furthermore, $500,000 is designated to the Morehouse School of Medicine’s new nursing program. Under the budget area for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, HB 910 provides $416,875 for Georgia Options and the Matthew Reardon Center for Autism; these programs have been great partners to the state and provide incredible support services to children and adults with developmental disabilities. This budget also appropriates $10 million to fund service cancelable loans for mental health practitioners to expand the workforce to meet increasing demands for services. HB 910 also includes $310,000 for the Georgia Crisis and Access Line to implement the National Suicide Lifeline in our state.
This budget also prioritizes keeping Georgians safe and supporting our law enforcement agencies and corrections system. This version of the AFY 2022 budget allocates $1.3 million to support our judicial system’s critical operations. HB 910 also includes $23.6 million to replace almost 600 vehicles for the Georgia Department of Corrections, Department of Community Supervision, Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Department of Public Safety. For the health, safety and security of offenders in our correctional system, this budget designates $432 million to the Georgia Building Authority for a state prison facility transformation and various technology projects. HB 910 also mirrors the governor’s recommendation to provide $4.6 million in new funds to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund to help offset lower than normal probation fee collections, as well as $1.8 million in unallocated training funds, totaling $6.5 million in increased funding for this important initiative. This version of the budget also includes funding for improvements to several state facilities, including the Georgia World Congress Center, the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Jekyll Island State Park. Finally, HB 910 designates approximately $483,000 to allow the GBI to hire four election complaint investigators.
When we return to the State Capitol on Monday, February 14, we will have another packed week under the Gold Dome. While this session is getting busier by the day, one of my top priorities will remain connecting with my constituents to hear your feedback about the work we are doing in Atlanta. I encourage you to reach out if you have any questions or concerns regarding legislation that has been discussed or passed so far. You can reach my Capitol office at 404-656-0325, or you can email me directly at Stan.Gunter@house.ga.gov.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative and legislative voice here at the Capitol.