(The Center Square) – Georgia House on Friday approved a state budget of $ 27.2 billion for fiscal 2022, a 5.2% increase in spending over its original budget for the current fiscal year.

The proposal restores the funding for education and other cuts that legislators made to protect the treasury in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The House plan also increases health care and behavioral health spending, and increases funding for new government positions and increases them.

The House approved measure 136-31.

In each legislative period, two budgets are approved by the General Assembly. Lawmaker and Governor Brian Kemp last month approved a revised spending plan of $ 26.5 billion for the remainder of the year current financial year. The initial state budget for that year was $ 25.9 billion. Kemp urged state authorities last summer to cut spending by 10% in fiscal 2021, which now keeps spending below current income.

Budget writers retained most of Kemp’s recommendations in both tax plans, including restoring 60% of government funding for the largest spending: education. The House and Kemp have provided $ 9.6 billion in government funding in the 2022 plan. This is also reflected in a 2.5% increase in pre-school spending. A total of USD 756 million more was allocated in the education proposal.

The House recommended spending more on behavioral health and disability services than on Kemp. The plan calls for a total of $ 58 million to be spent on behavioral health, of which $ 36 million was added by the House.

House Appropriations Committee chair Terry England, R-Auburn, said this was one of the most impactful spending in the budget. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, agreed.

“The House has taken a significant step forward in expanding access to a wide range of behavioral and developmental disorder services for our citizens today,” Ralston said in a statement. “Our work is just getting started, but I am very proud of the investments we are making in these critical services that touch every family in Georgia.”

The House’s plan will restore funding for hepatitis C projects and family support services for Georgians with disabilities. It also calls for an increase in funding for substance abuse, suicide prevention services, crisis beds and the recruitment of six forensic peer members.

Behavioral health providers could also see Medicaid and Medicare rates increase 5% if the proposal goes into effect. The total government allocation for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disorders would be nearly $ 1.2 billion.

House Democratic leader James Beverly, D-Macon, said he voted against the spending proposal because it does not include a full expansion of Medicaid, which he believes is more crucial now because of the pandemic.

Beverly proposed a change Friday that would fund a full expansion of Medicaid. Beverly said a full expansion of the state’s current plan to a sub-plan would secure more federal Medicaid dollars. The amendment was rejected.

The house plan increases the state’s share of the contribution of the teachers’ pension system from 19.06% to 19.81% and from 8.38% to 8.81% for the judicial pension system. However, Georgia will save money by reducing the employer’s contribution to health insurance for government employees.

The state would also continue to fund new positions in the Department of Health added to the amended 2021 budget to support the state’s COVID-19 efforts. The House also wants to restore cuts to its operations, legislative offices, judicial system, tourism and child welfare services.

The proposal envisages spending nearly $ 1.2 million on the Department of Audits and Accounts to conduct more audits, including reviewing Georgia’s tax credits and COVID-19 expense reports.

It would increase funding for new judges and juvenile defense lawyers and divert funds to secure increases for state correctional officers previously foreseen in the adjusted 2021 budget. Medical examiners, food inspectors, defense lawyers, prosecutors and state troops could also expect a salary adjustment when the bill is passed. Lawmakers allocated $ 4 million to hire and retain jobs.

The house proposal is sent to the Senate. Both chambers of the General Assembly must agree on a budget for 2022 before sending the spending plan to Kemp for final approval. The new fiscal year begins on July 1st.