The House successfully passed the amended fiscal year (AFY 2016) budget, or the mid-year adjustment of state spending through June 30, 2016.
The amended budget, HB 750, is very similar to Governor Deal's recommendations, consisting of $1.1 billion, or 5.3 percent, in "new" funds, bringing the total appropriation for AFY 2016 to $22.9 billion with education and transportation funds account for approximately 85 percent of the new appropriations.
HB 750 passed the House on Thursday, January 28, 2016 by a vote of 176-0.
A major part of the AFY 2016 budget is the appropriation of $758 million in new state general and motor fuel funds for transportation
Of those funds, $519 million are budgeted for capital construction and maintenance projects; $200 million for routine maintenance; and $336.1 million in Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants (LMIG).
The AFY 2016 budget allocates $204 million to Georgia's K-12 system, including a $109.9 million for midterm enrollment growth. This also includes $14.9 million through the OneGeorgia Authority to continue to provide grants to local school systems for wireless broadband connectivity to encourage high-tech classrooms.
Funding for higher education was also included with an additional $30 million in lottery funds going towards the HOPE/Zell Miller Scholarships and an additional $525,808 in new funds for the North Georgia Military Scholarship Grant.
It also allocates an additional $20.2 million for the Move on When Ready program, allowing eligible Georgia students to take advantage of dual enrollment and progress at their own pace.
The AFY 2016 budget also provides additional funding in some other areas, most notably Georgia's health services. The budget appropriates $59 million for growth in the Medicaid and Peachcare programs.
These funds will cover high-cost prescriptions, increased cost of the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program, and overall program growth. The budget also calls for an additional $17.1 million towards Medicare payments. While these funds are certainly needed, perhaps some of the most meaningful allocations are within the Community Care Services Program, which maintains community-based services for the elderly.
The AFY 2016 budget provides $2.3 million towards office expansion or relocation of four county offices that see the greatest influx of participants in the Community Care Services Program.
In addition to passing the AFY 2016 budget, we also passed another important piece of legislation that will provide Georgia's tax preparers and business community with more certainty when filing their tax returns.
House Bill 742 is an annual Internal Revenue Code (IRC) update and makes changes to Georgia's tax code to comply with the recently updated federal tax code. HB 742 updates Georgia's tax code by synchronizing tax return filing dates to allow most businesses in Georgia to file state and federal returns simultaneously. HB 742 would also make permanent the $500,000 deduction in section 179 and the Research Tax Credit.
In addition to passing these bills, the House and Senate convened for a joint session in the House Chamber with the Georgia Supreme Court, the Georgia Court of Appeals and other guests for the annual State of the Judiciary Address from Chief Justice Hugh Thompson on Wednesday.
Chief Justice Thompson was appointed to the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1994 and was elected by his peers to a four-year term as chief justice in 2013. Lt. Governor Casey Cagle welcomed the Chief Justice to the rostrum where he updated us on the current state of Georgia's judicial system.
Finally, while we accomplished some very important work on legislation last week, we also took time to recognize some of our state's most admirable citizens.
On Monday, January 25, the House celebrated Georgia National Guard Day in honor of our brave Georgians in uniform. Members of the Georgia National Guard were recognized on the House floor and presented with House Resolution 1007.
It was an honor to have Adjutant General Joe Jarrard and members of the Georgia National Guard with us in the House, where we were also privileged to witness a new member of the Georgia National Guard be sworn into the Army National Guard by our very own colleague and WWII veteran, Representative John Yates (R-Griffin).
As the 2016 legislative session moves into its fourth week, committees will be meeting more frequently to discuss many more pieces of legislation.