• Update from the Capitol: Budget Hearings

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    January 28, 2019

    Contact:  Ines Ownes, Director
    Update from the Capitol: Budget Hearings
    By: Sen. Larry Walker (R – Perry)

    This week in the Senate, we began joint budget hearings and heard Governor Kemp give his specific proposals for the Amended FY 2019 and General FY 2020 Budgets. The hearings started out with an overall economic outlook from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. We were told that Georgia is ahead of most states as far as job growth goes, and that we have exceeded our revenue collection expectations, leaving us with a positive economic outlook for the next year. However, it was mentioned that an ever-changing stock market leads people to believe in an upcoming recession. Because of this, we must remain conservative in our revenue estimate and planned expeditures as we balance the needs of Georgia’s citizens with a fiscally responsible balanced budget that allows us to maintain a healthy rainy day fund.
    There are two specific allocations, important to the 20th District, that I am pleased to see in the Governor's General FY20 Budget, and I would like to share them with you. The recommendations are:
    •          $10.6 million for the renovation of Roberts Library and Dillard Hall, two of the oldest buildings at the Middle Georgia State University campus in Cochran.
    •          $1.7 million for maintenance and renovations at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry.
    School safety is at the forefront of everyone's mind these days, and I was pleased to hear from State School Superintendent Richard Woods that he has $68.8 million for school safety in the Georgia Department of Education budget.  This will result in a $30,000 grant for each school to be used, as the local district sees fit, to improve school safety.   Superintendent Woods suggested funds could be used to "harden" access to schools, security cameras, or school bus safety improvements, among other things.  I fully support the flexibility of this funding, as I know that each district has different needs and concerns and are best able to determine how to most effectively use these dollars to improve student safety.  I look forward to seeing what specific safety improvements we can make to our schools and school buses in the near future.
    The technical college system was another focus of the proposed budgets. There is a recommended $2.1 million for technical colleges to accommodate last year’s increase in enrollment. In addition, there is a proposed $34 million appropriation for the purpose of creating a low interest loan program for technical college students. Whether it is agriculture, defense, health care, manufacturing or film industries, all benefit from a skilled work force through the technical college education system. These budget suggestions are important to the 20th District as we have two great technical colleges, Central Georgia Technical College and Oconee Fall Line Technical College with campuses and centers throughout Middle Georgia. 
    Both of these technical colleges fulfill a vital role in supplying a skilled workforce for Robins Air Force Base and our private sector industries, which is the number one challenge each face. They provide career opportunites for our young people by supporting initatives like apprenticeship programs and our career academies, both which allow students to obtain hands on training for future careers.  Through programs like this, technical colleges are helping meet the workforce needs of today and the future with a remarkable job placement rate of 99.3 percent. It is evident that the investment in technical college training is paying off with increased job opportunities for our citizens.
    I will continue to highlight budget items in the following weeks as we dive deeper into the appropriations process. If you would like to see the Governor’s full proposals, click here: https://opb.georgia.gov/sites/opb.georgia.gov/files/related_files/site_page/FY%202020%20Budget%20Report%20-%20%20FINAL.pdf
    If you have any questions about legislation or the budgeting or legislative processes, please feel free to contact my office through email or phone. I am always happy to hear from my constituents as I work to best serve the 20th District.
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    Sen. Larry Walker serves as Caucus Vice Chairman for the Majority Party.  He represents the 20th Senate District, which includes Bleckley, Houston, Laurens and Pulaski counties.  He may be reached by phone at (404) 656-0095 or by email at larry.walker@senate.ga.gov

    Elisabeth Fletcher, Communications Specialist