Session 2017: Week 2
Session 2017: Week 2
In week two of the 2017 legislative session, the House and Senate Appropriations committees conducted a series of joint budget hearings in order to begin the process of reviewing Gov. Deal’s budget recommendations. We worked carefully through his recommendations for the amended current and upcoming fiscal years in order to create the legislation that will guide Georgia’s spending in the most effective and beneficial way for its citizens.
Based on the governor’s recommendations, my colleagues and I will begin writing two budget bill drafts. The first is the Amended Fiscal Year 2017 budget (AFY 2017) which is an amended budget for our current fiscal year. We will make adjustments to this bill based on the revenue the state has actually accrued. The second is the Fiscal Year 2018 budget (FY 2018) which is the complete budget for 2018 that is guided by a projected state revenue estimate for spending beginning July 1st.
Gov. Deal began our budget hearings on Tuesday by going over his budget recommendations in detail. My colleagues and I also listened to testimonies from state agency heads as they voiced their needs and opinions since the final budget drafts will outline how much funding these agencies will receive.
Gov. Deal’s AFY 2017 budget includes about $606 million in new revenue, and his FY 2018 budget proposal includes $25 billion. This amount is due to the state’s economic growth in the past few years in labor markets and wages & revenues. This projected budget amount will help our state continue in economic success and open the door for new opportunities.
For example, in my last blog post I spoke about the creation of the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta. Gov. Deal included this center as a top priority in his budget recommendations. He proposed that $50 million go towards this state-owned facility which will bolster our country’s cybersecurity, provide opportunities for entrepreneurs, and encourage further innovation. It will stir up interest in our student-age citizens and provide them with the knowledge and skill for other opportunities in cyber-technology.
The governor then stressed the importance of the continued support of programs that keep the citizens of Georgia safe. His AFY 2017 budget proposal asked that $27.3 million go towards a 20% salary increase for law enforcement officers, public safety trainers, and criminal investigators. He also recommended that additional funding go towards pursuit, investigative, and bomb response vehicles and equipment to aid in wildfires. This salary increase will lower turnover rates and ensure that officers are adequately paid and equipped. I am happy to do my part in making sure these public servants have what they need to protect the citizens of GA.
In order to improve criminal justice reform, Gov. Deal proposed that $4.2 million of the FY 2018 budget go towards expanding Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Incentive Grants and accountability courts. This will make way for community-based alternatives to rehabilitate offenders as opposed to sentencing. The governor also included $3.7 million in order to continue educational and vocational assistance programs for inmates that will give them the skills they need to be productive citizens after release.
Funding for Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) caseworkers was also included in the FY 2018 budget in order to continue our efforts to make Georgia a safe place for our young citizens. This increase in personnel is a response to the success of past programs and initiatives aimed at protecting the state’s children. We have emphasized the importance of reporting cases of child abuse and/or endangerment and have seen an increase in call volume. Therefore, the need for more caseworkers has arisen. Additional caseworkers will reduce the caseload for individual workers which will allow them to work better. Gov. Deal proposes that $25.9 million of the FY 2018 budget go towards recruiting and retaining qualified caseworkers and towards salary increases.
The governor also recommends that $28.6 million in AFY budget and $30.9 million of the FY 2018 budget go towards assisting children in out-of-home care, which has risen by 62% in costs to the state since 2013. He proposed that the FY budget include $3.9 million to cover reimbursements for DFCS foster parents and $2.9 million for recruitment and retainment of these families. This increase will prove necessary since the number of children in out-of-home care is projected to increase even more in the future. These budget recommendations will further ensure that Georgia’s children are well taken care of.
Lastly, Gov. Deal spoke on his budget recommendations for education. He is concerned about the reading and writing skills of our young citizens. He proposed that the AFY 2017 and FY 2018 budgets allocate funds towards the development of the Georgia Center for Early Language and Literacy. This facility will be at the Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville and will train specialized and skilled instructors. These instructors will then train our state’s teachers to combat literacy issues. Most educators agree that we need to dedicate more focus on making sure every teacher has the skills to teach literacy in ways that every student can understand. Gov Deal also proposed a 2% ($160 million) salary increase for teachers in the FY 2018 budget. It is vital that we invest in our teachers and our students to prepare our state’s future leaders.
Moving forward, the budgets will go through an order of review before it becomes legislation:
● House Appropriations subcommittees will thoroughly review the governor’s proposals in order to pass portions of the budget.
● These portions will go before the House Appropriations Committee so they can review and pass balanced budgets.
● These versions of the budget will then go before the Rules Committee where it will be placed on the House calendar.
● The budgets then go to the House floor which gives every member of the House a chance to voice their concerns.
● After passing in the house, the budgets will go before the State Senate and repeat the same committee process before being sent to the Senate floor for a vote.
● The Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor will appoint a conference committee to resolve any discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the budget.
● Once agreed upon, the budgets are sent back to the House and Senate for a final floor vote.
● Once approved by the house and senate, it is sent to Gov. Deal where he will sign or veto.
This is the process we are working diligently towards as we continue the 2017 legislative session. I look forward to the hard work ahead of us as we do our best to improve our state and serve its citizens.
You can view my committee assignments for the 2017-2018 legislative term here. You are also welcome to visit me at my capitol office located at 228-A State Capitol Atlanta, GA 30334. I can be reached by phone at 404.656.5099 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you on how I can help serve Georgia. Do not hesitate to reach out to me and discuss your thoughts on this year’s budget legislative session!
You can learn more about me and interact with me on my Facebook page. For more information on this year’s session, you can also visit www.house.ga.gov. There you can even view live streaming of the House proceedings. Check back here next week for more updates on the current legislative session. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative!
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