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Update from the Capitol: Budget Week
By: Sen. Larry Walker (R - Perry)
On Thursday, members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees wrapped up a series of joint budget hearings presented by Governor Brian Kemp and the heads of numerous state departments. Discussions surrounding our state’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year are always part of the routine of the General Assembly, but this year was especially critical given proposals for some notable funding cuts. Ultimately, Georgia is seeing less growth in state revenues than the expected 3%. As a state, we are still fiscally strong and economically competitive, but our progress has slowed down. So, while we continue our conversations on the budget and vote on enacting legislation, it is key that we make smart cuts that still address and prioritize the needs of Georgians everywhere.
Following Governor Kemp’s state budget plan from the previous year, our state agencies are anticipating a 4% decrease in spending during the rest of Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) and a 6 percent cut in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21). Coupled with this are efforts to eliminate duplicate programs and cut down on administration and employee overtime. Overall, the state is looking to save hundreds of million dollars, while still maintaining a FY21 budget of $28.1 billion.
A significant portion of that budget will be allocated to Georgia’s education systems, both public and charter, and lower and higher. Over $350 million will go into providing a $2,000 pay hike to our state educators, while roughly $143 million and $3.5 million will go into accomodating enrollment growth in our K-12 public schools and the Technical College System of Georgia, respectively. Education is fundamental to the growth of our state and our technical colleges, in particular, produce some of Georgia’s highest skilled workers. I believe this additional funding will help support participation in some of our most needed sectors, including healthcare, agriculture and computer technology, while also promoting our workforce development.
With that, Georgia’s labor field has seen great success over the last year through our record low unemployment and growth of state-based businesses. However, a large sum of Georgia is experiencing a labor shortfall, while the middle and more rural communities are disproportionately affected by an average unemployment rate of 6 and 8%. This is double the state’s average of 3.3%. Implementing a labor strategy that deviates away from a metro-Atlanta focus will help open up more opportunites for the people of District 20 and fuel innovative growth.
The Senate will pick back up next week for the rest of the 36 legislative days and in doing so, I want to remind you of the Senate Page Program that we offer to students from the age of 12 and older. The Page program is a great opportunity for our kids to spend the day at the state Capitol, view the legislative cycle firsthand and get to meet other elected officials. Best of all, students will get class credit without having to sit in the classroom. If you’re interested, or have additional questions about either the budget or legisation, don’t hesitate to contact my office and we’d be happy to help you out. I look forward to meeting and talking with you.
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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 e