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(ATLANTA - January 24, 2020) Following the observation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, members of the Senate reconvened in the State Capitol to conduct a series of joint budget hearings surrounding the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY20) and Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budgets. I, along with other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spent the week listening to Governor Brian Kemp and representatives from state agencies and departments to determine the most appropriate methods for moving forward with our budget.
Budget Week - Senate Report
Overall, Governor Kemp’s proposal issues a 4% spending cut for state agencies during AFY20, followed by a 6% cut in FY21. This is expected to save roughly $200 million and $300 million, respectively, by consolidating administrative functions, eliminating duplicative efforts and improving cooperation. As part of the Amended FY20 Budget, programs in the Department of Community Health are anticipated to transfer to the Department of Human Services to save roughly $3.7 million. The Governor has also proposed that the Department of Natural Resources’ Preservation Program should be merged with the Department of Community Affairs to save $25 million. I believe this consolidation of programs will in turn ensure more money is being appropriately saved and returned to Georgians.
The Amended Budget for FY20 is followed by a $28.1 billion budget plan for FY21. The funding of our education systems has proven to be one of the primary targets, as it makes up 54% of the budget. Of that, the Governor proposes for $360 million to be given to the Department of Education to provide a $2,000 pay increase for teachers, and another $143.5 million would be reserved for school systems that are experiencing 0.3%, or higher, enrollment increases. The University System of Georgia, the Georgia Military College and the Technical College System of Georgia will also see similarly large funding recommendations for enrollment. Education is crucial to the advancement of our state and the wellbeing of our children. It presents irreplaceable opportunities that will help them succeed, but we must exercise caution to make sure other departments and agencies are not disproportionately neglected.
As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I would also like to highlight how budget allocations influence the process of legal proceedings in the state. Chief Justice Harold Melton, on behalf of the Georgia Supreme Courts and Court of Appeals, detailed the need for appropriate funding and resource allocation in the area of cybersecurity. Of the $735,000 proposed budget increases for the Judiciary, $130,000 would be allocated to cyber security insurance and a Cyber Security Operations Center. I am a full proponent of placing funding into the more vulnerable areas of our state’s judicial system. The courts help ensure that our fundamental rights are upheld, and we must be proactive to ensure that cyberattacks cannot thwart justice for Georgia’s citizens.
With the proposed budget and spending cuts, my goal is to maintain a conservative spending model. A limited form of government guarantees the protection of our basic rights, and the allocation of your taxpayer dollars must be prioritized in a way that best benefits you. As we vote on the Amended FY20 Budget and the General FY21 budget, please let me know your priorities.
Also, do not forget, my office is always open if you have any questions or concerns.