Kemp signs Georgia budget with pay rises, scholarship increases – WABE

Pay increases are on the horizon for state and university employees and public school teachers, and Georgia will pay full tuition for all HOPE Scholarship recipients under the budget signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday.

The Republican governor approved the budget in a ceremony at the construction site for Hyundai Motor Group’s new electric vehicle plant in Ellabell.

“There’s a lot of good to talk about in this household,” Kemp said. “It is important that Georgians know that we keep our promises.”

Kemp also signed a bill to continue tax incentives for economic development projects. He wore a hard hat with the state flag and an orange construction vest as heavy equipment moved the soil for the $5.5 billion plant.

The budget provides for spending for the year beginning July 1 of $32.4 billion in federal funds and $55.9 billion in total, including federal and other funds. Though leaders fear government revenue growth will slow, the document reflects Kemp’s willingness to continue spending even as the Georgian government has billions in surpluses in the bank.

State police officers and many other law enforcement officers will receive a $6,000 pay rise, while all state employees, public university employees, technical college staff, and public school teachers will receive a $2,000 pay rise.

“No other general assembly or governor in the state’s history has raised teachers’ salaries so quickly and so much,” Kemp said, citing the $5,000 annual salary increases he gave to teachers and state employees in his first term paid off.

State-funded public librarians and teachers in state-funded preschool programs also get a $2,000 pay rise, while school cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and nurses get a 5% pay rise. The state will pay school administrators a one-time bonus of $1,000 and foot the bill for schoolchildren who are now eligible for discounted lunches and breakfasts. Overall, Georgia will spend a record $13.1 billion on K-12 schools.

The budget also restores the original system of full tuition payment for HOPE scholarships for all high school graduates with a B average. While Zell Miller grantees who achieve better grades and a standardized minimum test score now receive full tuition, others only receive 90%. The budget also increases HOPE Scholarship payments to private Georgia college students.

Lawmakers have cut teaching resources at the state’s 26 public universities by $66 million. That’s a small cut, but University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said it could exacerbate funding problems related to falling enrollments at many smaller universities. Kemp said on the last night of the March legislature that the budget had “significant gaps”.

Perdue said he hopes lawmakers will pad the cut when he returns in January. The legislature routinely changes the budget every year.

Lawmakers also cut about $1.4 million in funding for Georgia Public Broadcasting and about $3.2 million for Augusta University’s Georgia Cyber ​​Center.

Georgia’s budget is enough to educate 1.75 million K-12 students and 465,000 college students, house 48,000 prisoners, expand 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) of highways, and serve more than 200,000 people who are are mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The plan spends more on mental health and addiction treatment, reflecting lawmakers’ continued emphasis on these issues.

The budget also provides a renewed $500 in bonuses for 54,000 retirees in the State Workers’ Pension Scheme. People on this plan did not receive periodic cost-of-living increases.

Lawmakers agreed to pay for home services for 500 more people with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities — instead of the 250 originally proposed by Kemp. The state has thousands on a waiting list for such services.