2014 legislative session 1/25/14 weekly wrap-up
2014 legislative session weekly wrap-up
The General Assembly’s most crucial responsibility each session is to pass two balanced state budgets: an amended budget for the current fiscal year and a full budget for the following fiscal year. The full fiscal year budget uses a projected state revenue estimate to guide state spending from July 1 to June 30 of the following fiscal year. The amended budget uses a more accurate estimate of state revenue and accounts for any discrepancies between the projected estimate and actual revenue obtained. Having already heard Governor Deal’s recommendations for both the Amended Fiscal Year 2014 (AFY 2014), and the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 2015), we began the process of turning those recommendations into the actual legislation that will guide all state spending. Since all fiscal bills are required to originate in the House of Representatives, my colleagues and I quickly turned our attention towards the amended budget for FY 2014 by conducting a series of House Appropriations subcommittee hearings during our second week at the Gold Dome.
Throughout the second week of session, these subcommittees met to hear from heads of state agencies and learn about their perspectives on the amended budget. It was also an opportunity for our subcommittees to delve even deeper into the amended budget and ensure that state agencies are efficiently stretching their allotted funds to best serve Georgians.
After the subcommittee hearings concluded, the subcommittees each passed their respective portions of the budget. The whole House Appropriations Committee then reviewed and passed a balanced budget for the remainder of FY 2014. On Friday, January 24, 2014, the budget, packaged in House Bill 743, went to the House floor. There, every member of the House had the opportunity to voice their opinions on it, before it was voted on and passed in the House by a majority vote.
The figures in HB 743 were very similar to what Governor Deal proposed in his budget recommendations that we heard in his budget proposal. Because state revenues have increased, we were able to add $300 million to the budget for AFY 2014, which is about a 1.5% increase from when we started the fiscal year. This will ultimately increase our overall state spending for 2014 from $19.9 billion to $20.2 billion.
Over half of the “new” funds in the AFY 2014 went to K-12 Education. An increase of approximately $180 million is the mid-year adjustment for K-12 Education which will go to local school districts to pay for growing student enrollment numbers. In addition, a portion of these new funds will go to economic development initiatives in OneGeorgia, Regional Economic Business Assistance grants and transportation items. For these projects, HB 743 adds $51.5 million for the Department of Community Affairs and $27 million to the Department of Transportation. We were also able to add $25 million to pay for increased enrollment in Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids health care programs.
Now that the amended budget has passed the House, it will repeat the same process in the State Senate. By the time the bill goes through Senate Appropriations subcommittees, the whole Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Senate floor vote, it may be a bit different from what the House originally passed on January 24. Should this happen, a conference committee with members from both the House and Senate will be appointed. These members will ensure that the House and Senate pass identical versions of HB 743. This is essential, because both chambers must completely agree on any piece of legislation before it can be sent to Governor Deal’s desk to be signed into law. Though complicated, all legislation must go through this process before becoming law.
As the budget moves through the legislative process, I will update you on its status. I will also keep you informed about other pieces of important legislation that arise during this legislative session. Please contact me about any state issues that are particularly important to you or your family. As your representative I am here to serve as your voice. You can reach me at my Capitol office at 404-656-0109.
Thank you for your time.