On Friday, June 26, the Georgia General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. The two weeks back at the capitol were unusual, but very productive. While normal operations changed, our focus remained on passing a balanced budget and legislation that will ensure Georgia remains the number one state in which to do business and raise a family.
Over the next several months, I will be updating you on several pieces of legislation that received final passage including an increase in transparency for health care costs, protections for our law enforcement, additional tools for the state’s Attorney General to address human trafficking and enhancements to economic development opportunities throughout the state.
While we passed several bills and spent numerous hours debating these issues, our number one obligation was to pass a balanced budget to account for a 10% revenue shortfall prediction due to COVID-19. While cuts had to be made, I am proud of each agency, administration and the Georgia General Assembly for coming together and working out a plan that will have a minimal impact on direct services and operations of our state. I want to thank the administration for recognizing $250 million from the revenue shortfall reserve and $50 million from tobacco settlement reserves, giving us roughly 1% back to appropriate during the budget process. Additionally, a part of this budget that I would like to draw special attention to is that no furloughs are required for state employees in this 10% budget reduction.
I also commend President Trump and the federal government for appropriating necessary funding during these unprecedented times. Their quick action and relief to our state helped minimize cuts we would have had to make in areas like education and public health to pass a balanced budget. Unlike the federal government and other states, Georgia must have a balanced budget and cannot borrow money or have debt. Below are some highlights from the Fiscal Year 2021 budget – House Bill 793:
♦ No required furlough days for state employees
♦ Fully restored funding to county health departments throughout the state
♦ No reduction in funds for five new Level IV trauma centers
♦ All state legislators will take a 10% pay cut
♦ $142 million has been added to the education budget, which makes up 54% of the overall budget, for enrollment growth and teacher training
♦ $178 million increase in the budget for the Department of Community Health, including $19.7 million to provide Medicaid coverage for six months for new mothers
♦ $2.5 million annualized funding for the Department of Behavioral Health for 95 statewide crisis beds
♦ $1.9 million in funding has been restored to the Department of Agriculture for 13 inspector positions
♦ $48,000 maintained for each county Family Connection Program
♦ $20 million in 10-year bond to purchase school buses statewide
These are just some of the key items from the $26 billion Fiscal Year 2021 budget. To review the full breakdown of the budget that was adopted, please follow this link: http://www.house.ga.gov/budget/Documents/2021_FiscalYear/FY_2021_Tracking_Sheet_Conference_Committee.pdf
Please contact my office if you have any questions on the budget or any of the legislation that passed this week. While our work at the Capitol has come to an end, my work on your behalf continues and I will keep you updated through the year. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns or feedback. I hope you and your family have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
Sen. Burt Jones is the Chairman of the Insurance and Labor Committee. He represents the 25th Senate District which includes Baldwin, Butts, Greene, Jasper, Morgan and Putnam counties and portions of Bibb, Jones and Walton counties. He may be reached at 404.656.0082 or via email at email@example.com.