2023 Session: Week 4 Update
It’s hard to believe we are already over a quarter of the way through the 2023 session! This past week was fast paced as the House and Senate convened for another four legislative days, and several House committees met to consider legislation. Before our week was over, we voted on our first bill of the session: the Amended Fiscal Year 2023 state budget, also known as the “little budget.”
The Georgia General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget. In fact, that’s the only action that is required of the General Assembly, and it must originate in the House. Thursday, we passed House Bill 18, the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) 2023 budget. During the 2022 session, the legislature passed the original Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which set state spending at $30.2 billion based on projected revenue estimates. Now, we must pass an amended state budget based on the actual revenue obtained to fund our state operations through the end of the fiscal year in June. Due to revenue collections being much higher than expected, the AFY 2023 budget recognizes approximately $2.36 billion in additional revenue over what was anticipated in the initial FY 2023 budget. This is the second year in a row that Georgia has experienced such large growth in revenue for an amended budget. With this increase in funding, the House was able to provide additional onetime investments to keep Georgians safe, healthy, and prosperous over the coming year. I will highlight some of the House Appropriation committee’s changes to the Governor’s proposed budget below: Education
I am honored to serve as Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Education subcommittee which works on budget items pertaining to the Department of Early Care and Learning, the Department of Education, Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Changes the subcommittee made to Governor Kemp’s proposed AFY 23 budget include: Providing funds for security grants of $60,000 per school and allowing the local school systems to allocate these grants systemwide as they see fit. Our reasoning in allowing local systems to allocate these grants rather than individual schools is that all schools in a system do not have the same security needs as others. For example, a newly built school may not need any improvements whereas an older school may have many needs.
Providing $3000 in reimbursable grants to paraprofessionals who earn teaching certificates through GaTAPP and are enrolled on or after January 1, 2023. To address Georgia’s current teacher shortage, we want to encourage and help paraprofessionals to work towards becoming certified classroom teachers.
For the first time since the Great Recession, this budget includes funding for the employer portion for the State Health Benefit Plan for certified and noncertified school employees, which has previously been paid using only local school systems’ budgets. To support our local schools, the House allocated $100 million to reflect a three-year phase-in for the employer contribution portion for school employees starting in January 2024. We heard from many school superintendents who were concerned about the cost of increasing their portion of SHBP contributions, so these funds will help ease the burden.
Increase funds to purchase equip ment for construction industry training programs. These are jobs that are currently in high demand, and training high school students will allow them to enter the workforce more quickly.
Providing $128.2 million for the Quality Basic Education formula’s midterm adjustment for 12,939 new students, account for charter system growth, and expand the Special Needs Scholarship.
Our version of the AFY 2023 budget recognizes many of the governor’s recommendations to support economic and workforce development initiatives throughout Georgia. It includes $6.25 million for the Technical College System of Georgia to design a new electric vehicle training center, $56.2 million to finish building the new electric vehicle Quick Start training center in Bryan County, and $10.6 million to support an existing training center in the Chatham County area. To address the major demand for pilots and other aviation workers, the Middle Georgia State University Aviation Program would receive $5.7 million to purchase aircraft and construct t-hangers needed to expand the program. For our workforce housing needs, HB 18 repurposes $35.7 million in existing grant funds to establish the Rural Workforce Housing Fund. This program would help local authorities bring new much-needed housing to rural areas. Finally, the Savannah Logistics Innovation Center would receive $650,000 to support the logistics and supply chain industry to keep up with the growing demand near our state’s largest port.
The House’s AFY 2023 budget dedicates state funding for organizations and programs that provide critical health care services. $105 million is included to implement a new electronic medical record system. This major upgrade would enable doctors to electronically prescribe medications, improve communication between health systems, allow patients to access their medical records, enhance telehealth services, and streamline insurance billing and revenue collection. This budget also includes $2 million to support private psychiatric contract beds so adults struggling with severe mental health issues can receive the care they need. Furthermore, the Department of Human Services would receive $5 million to help find alternative housing for youth in our foster care system who have complex needs.
The AFY 2023 budget includes funding to address several public safety initiatives. HB 18 includes $2.4 million to improve security at domestic violence shelters located in 47 cities across the state. These vital shelters could spend these funds on safety training, safety assessments and upgrades to security systems, bulletproof windows, and more. Another $2 million in one-time funds is also included for these domestic violence shelters to offset the loss of federal grant funds. The governor’s AFY 2023 budget proposal includes $51 million to address emergency maintenance and repairs at our correctional facilities and prisons. The House’s version adds an additional $5 million to support these efforts.
Property Tax Relief
Finally, the House’s AFY 2023 budget includes $1 billion for the Homeowner Tax Relief Grant program, which would provide one-time property tax relief for qualifying homesteads for the tax year beginning January 1, 2023.
You can view the current budget bill here: www.legis.ga.gov/house/budgetresearch- office. In other news, the House Page Program resumed at the Capitol this week following a three-year hiatus due to Covid. For over 50 years, the Page Program has provided an opportunity for Georgia’s middle and high school students to visit our Capitol and serve in the House Chamber. The experience has sparked many political aspirations and has been a connective link between elected leaders and young students. I encourage students from House District 156 who may be interested to apply as soon as possible. Each House member is limited to five pages this session, and three have already been accepted from this district. Parents and students can learn more about the application process here: www.legis. ga.gov/house/page-program.
Last week, the Capitol was a hive of activity with various groups arriving to meet, connect with legislators, and celebrate accomplishments. The Georgia Youth Science and Tech Centers celebrated the 2023 Don Cargill STEM Scholars on Tuesday. Congratulations to Ben Hill Middle School teacher Shannon Bynum on being selected. Wednesday was Probate Judges Day at the Capitol. I was able to speak with Toombs County Probate Judge Tina Lindsey. Also on Wednesday, Hank and Leah Cook from Fitzgerald were at the Capitol with the Georgia Dental Association advocating for their group. I am grateful to these individuals who are passionate about their various fields and who work tirelessly for their communities.
The House reconvenes next week for Legislative Days 13 through 16 and will continue to see many more bills reach the House floor in the days ahead. Please contact me about any legislation that interests you, and please let me know if you plan to visit the Capitol during session. My Capitol office phone number is 404-656-0325, and my email address is [email protected]
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your House district 156 representative.
By Leesa Hagan R-Vidalia (District 156, Georgia House of Representatives)