by Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
The General Assembly gave final passage Monday night to a $30.2 billion state budget that provides pay raises to state employees and Georgia teachers.
During the final hour of this year’s legislative session, the Georgia House of Representative passed the fiscal 2023 spending plan 160-5. The state Senate had passed the budget unanimously earlier in the day.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, will increase salaries for most state employees by $5,000 and gives state retirees their first cost-of-living adjustment in 14 years. Targeted raises will go to correctional officers in the adult and juveniles prison systems to try to stem huge turnover rates.
Teachers, who saw a $3,000 raise in 2019, will get another $2,000, fulfilling a pledge Gov. Brian Kemp made on the campaign trail four years ago to raise teacher pay by $5,000.
With state coffers flush with robust tax revenues coming out of the pandemic, the budget increases spending by 10.8% over the budget the General Assembly adopted last spring. It includes an $11.8 billion investment in K-12 education, the largest in the state’s history.
The spending plan also eliminates the institutional fees the University System of Georgia began charging students during the Great Recession and increases Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers in Georgia to a full year following the birth of their children, up from the current six months.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery injected a word of warning when he presented the budget on the Senate floor. While strong state tax collections have given lawmakers leeway for the additional spending, there are signs of trouble for the economy, said Tillery, R-Vidalia.
“The storm clouds are on the horizon,” he said. “We need to know that and be honest with our constituents as we approach the next 12 months.”
The budget now heads to Kemp’s desk for his signature.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.