Building a budget for what matters in the state
Published 6:04 pm Monday, January 28, 2019
On Monday, Jan. 21, the State Capitol was closed in observance of Martin Luther King Day. His admonition that “the time is always right to do the right thing” is a great reminder as we work toward a better Georgia this legislative session. For the remainder of the week, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees met for hearings and began the work toward passing a balanced budget, the legislative body’s only constitutional duty.
Serving on the Appropriations Committee allows me to be involved at the very beginning stages of budget deliberations and a responsibility that I take very seriously. Gov. Kemp outlined his budget proposals for the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 and FY 2020 budgets, and while he addressed numerous proposals, I appreciated the emphasis he placed on education, healthcare and school safety, since these issues affect every Georgia citizen.
The governor’s proposal to add a $68.8 million grant so that each public school in our state will receive a one-time fund of $30,000 to implement school safety, is one that I strongly support, along with his recommendation that Georgia certified teachers receive a $3,000 pay raise. Our students should be able to go to school without fear of being hurt and our teachers’ pay should more accurately reflect their dedication and hard work. The AFY 2019 budget also includes close to $3 million in additional lottery funds for growth in the HOPE Scholarship fund and $3.5 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
Regarding safety, the AFY 2019 budget earmarks $500,000 in initial funds to form a gang taskforce within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to dismantle street gangs and track drug cartels that are operating in our communities. We must work with local and federal partners to undermine organized crime and eliminate gangs that are using social media to recruit young children.
Another major priority of the AFY 2019 budget addresses the need for quality healthcare and includes $1 million for the state to pursue options for Georgia’s Medicaid program that increases access to affordable healthcare. In addition, $5,821,341 is earmarked for the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission for hospitals that serve uninsured citizens of our state. The governor’s FY 2020 budget earmarks nearly $90 million in new funding for Medicaid and PeachCare expense growth and $3.2 million to add long-term acute care hospitals. It’s clear by the many healthcare line items included in both budgets, providing quality care is important to our new governor, and I’m grateful to be part of the process that will help many Georgians.
Other line items include funds for statewide water planning initiatives, an increase in hazardous waste cleanup activities, and a wildlife endowment fund generated through the sale of lifetime sportsmen licenses.
As you can imagine, the budget proposals contain much more than what space allows me here. For a complete report, please go to Opb.georgia.gov/governors-budget-reports.
Randy Nix represents Troup Co. in the Georgia House of Representatives