Many times, people have questions about their tax dollars and how they are spent. After last week’s amended FY17 budget passage, I felt compelled to provide you with the following explanation summary. As always, feel free to contact me if I can be of assistance to you.
The original 2017 fiscal year budget, which set state spending at $23.7 billion, was passed during the 2016 legislative session, but to recognize any discrepancies between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained, the legislature must also pass an amended state budget. The Amended Fiscal Year 2017 budget recognizes $606.2 million in additional revenue, or 2.5 percent more than the initial FY 2017 budget, and brings the total appropriation for the AFY 2017 budget to $24.3 billion. Following budget hearings and the diligent work of the members of the House Appropriations Committee, subcommittees and the House Budget and Research Office, the amended budget, or House Bill 43, was introduced on the House floor on Thursday, January 26, and passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 174-1.
Investments in our children and in the state’s education system are always large and essential components of any budget; therefore, HB 43 includes $108.9 million for midterm enrollment growth of 0.68 percent to ensure that every child has the educational resources they need. This year’s amended budget also accounts for the growing needs of our education system, including those needs of our institutions of higher learning. The AFY 2017 budget allocates $16.7 million to meet the projected needs of Move on When Ready, a program allowing eligible Georgia students to take advantage of dual enrollment and progress at their own pace, and $2.3 million to create the Georgia Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, an education training center for developing literacy skills among children from birth to age 8 throughout the state. Investments in education are investments in Georgia’s future, and I am proud of the work we have done, and are continuing to do, for our state’s students.
Additionally, the House fully supported Gov. Deal’s budget recommendation to support our public safety officials and proudly appropriated $25.1 million in the AFY 2017 budget for a 20 percent pay raise for these dedicated state law enforcement officers. This increase impacts officers and criminal investigators across 16 state agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Community Supervision and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The AFY 2017 budget also includes $23.5 million for 612 new vehicles for public safety agencies to replace high mileage or old vehicles. These additions to the amended budget are well deserved and will give our state troopers reliable vehicles that allow for faster response times, and I commend the House for passing these important budget items in HB 43.
As an exciting investment for our state, the House agreed with the governor’s recommendation and appropriated $50 million for the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Augusta in the AFY 2017 budget. This state-owned education and training center will be designed to enhance both public and private cybersecurity, focus on research and development, promote innovation in cybersecurity technology and prepare students to combat cyber-attacks. The Cyber Innovation and Training Center will place Georgia at the forefront in protecting our state and country from cyber-attacks, and will bring young talent and businesses to our state. This is a tremendous opportunity for the city of Augusta and the state of Georgia.
My fellow House members and I also funded a number of critical financial needs in the amended fiscal year budget, including the immediate need for a rate increase for Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) foster parents. The AFY 2017 budget provides $974,712 to expedite the 57 percent per diem rate increase for these foster parents by moving the effective date to April 1, 2017. The AFY 2017 budget also provides $746,243 for a $1 per day increase for the relative, or kinship, foster care providers also effective April 1, 2017. Every little bit can help these families and caregivers who play such a vital role in the lives of these young children in their care.
Lastly, in the AFY 2017 budget we appropriated $5 million to the Governor’s Emergency fund for the critical needs of many of our fellow Georgians. Recently, severe weather devastated communities in the south western region of our state, taking the lives of at least 15 Georgians, injuring many others and ravaging homes and businesses. These catastrophic storms resulted in school closures, power outages and insurmountable property damage. Gov. Deal declared a state of emergency in 16 South Georgia counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted individual assistance to six of these effected counties to ensure the affected populations receive the help needed. Due to this unforeseen natural disaster, the AFY 2017 budget appropriated these funds to supplement federal funding received from FEMA to aid in rehabilitating communities damaged by the storms. I send my sincerest condolences to those who have lost loved ones in these grievous events, as well as those recovering from injuries sustained during these devastating storms.