The Georgia House of Representatives plans to vote on a $32.5 billion spending plan for 2024 that will raise millions for law enforcement

House Democrats will vote Thursday on a spending plan for next year that includes additional pay raises for hard-to-staff state jobs and more money for law enforcement and behavioral health services.

The proposed $32.5 billion budget cleared committee hurdles on Wednesday and is scheduled to go before the full chamber on Thursday. From there it goes to the Senate, where lawmakers push through their own changes. The 2023 session ends later this month.

“Our work is not yet done. We know there are some priorities that need additional funding, particularly in the areas of behavioral health and law enforcement,” said Rep. Matt Hatchett, a Republican from Dublin who chairs the House Budget Committee.

State revenues in Georgia have increased, but that is the case expected to be slower, leaving budget writers in a cautious stance for the new fiscal year that begins in July. The governor also sets the overall spending limit, meaning lawmakers can only move money around in the budget.

“We have examined many needs and unfortunately we cannot meet all of them. But I look forward to working with the governor and the Senate on other ways to fund it,” Hatchett said.

Lawmakers have appropriated $1.3 million for a Georgia State Patrol satellite post in Buckhead, where it is seeking to separate from the city of Atlanta was rejected last week in the state Senate after the Kemp administration expressed doubts about the constitutionality of the city's proposal.

“At every level in Georgia, we are demonstrating that we have no tolerance for crime or street gangs,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement announcing the new location.

Lawmakers also added another $2,000 pay raise for law enforcement — on top of Kemp's proposed $2,000 raise for officers and other state employees — and another $2.7 million for a new cold case unit within of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The GBI is also set to receive an additional $1.5 million to increase staffing in its forensic services division to address a backlog in processing evidence such as toxicology, as well as $2.5 million to hire nurses for sexual assault at 28 centers across the state.

House budget writers also included significant funding increases for the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, increasing spending on crisis beds and spending an additional $10.1 million to increase pay for employees at state psychiatric hospitals.

Another $1.9 million will go toward a housing program required under the federal settlement agreement, and another $2.3 million has been allocated to expand needed services to support the rollout from 9-8-8, the national suicide prevention hotline.

The new version of the budget now includes funding for a total of 375 additional people with disabilities who will receive approximately $8 million in services through a Medicaid program. That's 125 spots more than the governor's budget proposal, but it's far from it the recommended 2,400 by a bipartisan Senate study panel last year.

“It is with great respect that I would like to let you know that 2,400 was the number that was asked for. That would cost $66 million. At this point, we will continue to work on it with this addition of ($8 million),” said Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Republican from Rome who leads the subcommittee overseeing that section of the budget.

Efforts to clear the 7,000-person waiting list for services have been complicated by a labor shortage of caregivers who support people with disabilities.

A review of wage rates for these workers has shown this to be the case cost the state about $91 million to increase worker salaries from $10.63 to $15.18 — which providers say is still not enough to compete with fast-food chains and retailers.

This tariff study is still in progress at the state level and must then be approved by the federal government. The legislature has now created a budget line in the budget for the funds needed to increase these wages, but no money has yet been set aside.

“We also recognize the need to fund the provider rates study and look forward to working with the Governor and Senate to develop a plan and funding for implementation,” Hatchett said.

Some other notable changes:

About $1.4 million would be used to provide adult dental care through Medicaid. Nowadays, only emergency dental services are offered.

The state Department of Agriculture would receive about $550,000 for two compliance specialist positions, equipment and vehicles to improve enforcement of the state's soil improvement regulations. Local officials and residents in northeast Georgia say it's mud is passed on as a soil conditioner that makes life unbearable in some rural communities.

The Governor's proposal to fund public Hope scholarships at 100% was scaled back to 95% in the House proposal. This allowed lawmakers to increase Hope scholarships for students at private institutions, Hatchett said.