Week Two 2016 Update
Last week began the important task of reviewing the governor’s budget recommendations and creating legislation that will direct the state’s spending. Through this process, we must outline two balanced state budgets:
An amended budget for the current fiscal year (AFY 2016)
A full budget for the following fiscal year (FY 2017)
With substantial economic growth occurring throughout the state in recent years, we have seen sustained growth in the state’s revenue, allowing for an addition of “new” funds in the budget. Gov. Deal’s AFY 2016 budget includes $109 million for K-12 education, and an increase of $1.6 million to support information technology applications used by local school systems. Gov. Deal also proposed an adjustment of $14.9 million in the amended budget to allow school systems to improve internet connectivity and for live online instruction.
Gov. Deal also wants to adjust funding for students planning to attend colleges and universities in the state of Georgia. Since 2012, the number of Zell Miller Scholars has increased by more than 40%, therefore, Gov. Deal has allocated an additional $30.3 million for AFY2016, and $59.1 million for FY2017.
The focus on education will continue in FY 2017. The governor believes we should invest $300 million for K-12 education to allow school districts to grant salary increases, eliminate furlough days or increase instruction days.
In addition to K-12 education, the governor also included an additional $26.2 million in funding for Pre-K teachers for salary increases up to three precent, as well as increasing salaries for assistant teachers.
In addition to advancements in education, we have progress in other areas, such as our state’s criminal justice reform system. Juvenile justice facilities in the state have seen a 25% decrease in population since the reforms have begun. Gov. Deal’s FY2017 budget calls for an additional $3.8 million towards the accountability courts to rehabilitate offenders and juvenile incentive grants aimed at providing community alternatives, as a proven alternative to sentencing. Gov. Deal has also allocated an additional $4.3 million in FY2017 to support educational initiatives in the state prison system. This includes operational costs for two charter high schools and expansion of GED fast track, vocational, and general education programs.
The last portion of the FY2017 proposal that I would like to highlight is the inclusion of hundreds of millions of new transportation dollars. As a result of legislation passed last session, House Bill 170, Gov. Deal’s budget proposal for FY2017 appropriates over $800 million to help maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges to keep freight and our commuters moving safely and efficiently. This major funding source for our state’s transportation infrastructure will benefit Georgians in many ways and will be felt throughout the state years to come. I am proud of my colleagues in the House for their leadership on HB 170 last session and to Gov. Deal and the Georgia Department of Transportation for executing these projects.
Finally this week, the House and Senate voted on an adjournment resolution that set the legislative calendar for the remainder of the 40-day session. Day 40, the final day of the 2016 legislative session, or “sine die,” will be Thursday, March 24. We have a very aggressive and busy schedule from now until then, and as we continue through this legislative session, I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions and concerns.
As your state representative, I want to know what issues are most important to you, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you. I also encourage you to visit your State Capitol, where you are always welcome to visit me at my capitol office, located at 508-C Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334. You may also call my capitol office at 404-656-0213, or reach me via email me at Andy.Welch@house.ga.gov. Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.