(The Center Square) – The Georgia House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $ 27.2 billion government spending plan for fiscal year 2022.
The suggestion would restore funding for education and other cuts lawmakers made to protect the treasury amid the pandemic. It would also increase health care and behavioral health spending and increase funding for new government positions.
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. 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.
The House recommended spending more on behavioral health and disability services than on Kemp. The House’s plan will restore funding for hepatitis C projects and family support services for Georgians with disabilities. It also calls for increased funding for substance abuse and suicide prevention services 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.
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 also calls for the Department of Auditing and Accounting to spend nearly $ 1.2 million on conducting additional 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.
Danny Kanso, senior policy analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, said the proposal is not enough to help Georgians after the pandemic. He said lawmakers should increase revenue and Kemp should pull up to $ 1.7 billion from the state’s $ 2.7 billion reserve while awaiting government aid.
“The budget, approved today by the House Appropriations Committee, underfunded the state government by more than $ 1.2 billion at a time when Georgians are still facing the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 stand to need more funding to meet their needs, “said Kanso.
The House of Representatives budget proposal must be reviewed by the Regulatory Committee before a full House vote. 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.