Week Ending January 24, 2020
A Message from Rep. Jeff Jones
The following report about the very important 2020 budget hearings was prepared by the House Media Office. I am not a member of budget or appropriations committees so I was not in Atlanta during the week of Budget hearings. Like many Georgians and Legislators, I watched portions of the hearings LIVE from a link on the House official website.
This newsletter will give you important information about the 2020 budget process.
Joint House and Senate Budget Hearings Began Tuesday, January 21, 2020
The House and Senate returned to the State Capitol on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, for the second week of the 2020 legislative session, which is commonly referred to as “budget week.” This week, the House and Senate began the state budget process, which is singularly the most important responsibilities we have during the legislative session - we are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget each year. Over the course of three days, the House and Senate Appropriations committees held a series of joint budget hearings, and Gov. Kemp presented his recommendations and priorities for the amended budget and upcoming 2021 fiscal year budget, which is set at $28.1 billion in total funding. Our second week under the Gold Dome was certainly busy as these committees worked to ensure that we efficiently allocate our state revenue to best serve the needs of all Georgians.
Governor Kemp’s Budget Proposal
“Budget week” on Tuesday when the joint committee heard from Gov. Kemp who presented his comprehensive budget proposals for the Amended Fiscal Year 2020 (AFY 2020) budget, which adjusts the current fiscal year’s budget to account for changes, and the Fiscal Year 2021 (FY 2021) budget, which is the budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1 and ends June 30 of the next calendar year.
Last fall, the governor instructed state agencies to identify opportunities to streamline operations and consolidate duplicative programs to reduce spending, and his proposals seek to accomplish those objectives. During his remarks at the joint budget hearings, the governor noted that several agencies have reported ways to cut spending by reducing administrative and overhead costs, leveraging technology and reorganizing behind-the-scenes operational systems. The governor also reflected on our state’s economy, and he commended us for creating a rock-solid foundation for businesses and families to thrive in Georgia. Gov. Kemp encouraged us to continue to build upon our state’s success by prioritizing our current financial resources and reducing unnecessary costs, while still delivering excellent service to our citizens.
In order to create a modern, work-ready labor force, our state must build a solid educational foundation. Therefore, the governor’s budget recommendations include investing in Georgia’s teachers through a $2,000 permanent base salary increase in the AFY 2020 budget to retain and attract the best educators for our schools. In the FY 2021 budget, he recommends adding $81 million to the University and Technical College Systems to fully fund enrollment growth, as well as alleviate the need for student tuition increases. Gov. Kemp also includes an appropriation of nearly $56 million in additional lottery funds for the HOPE scholarship and grant programs to assist students with college expenses. We recognize the importance that education plays in preparing students for the workforce and these allocations would provide them with the skills they need to succeed personally and professionally.
Investing in our state’s infrastructure system is a crucial component of attracting new businesses and spurring future economic growth across our state. To ensure that businesses can quickly and reliably move goods through the state, Gov. Kemp proposes $51 million in FY 2021 to the Georgia Department of Transportation for roadway improvement and development, $50 million in obligation bonds to repair and replace bridges and $1.8 million for motor carrier officers to maintain safety on Georgia highways and protect our ports corridor along the coast. Georgia has been the top state to do business for seven straight years and investing in our state’s transportation systems will keep Georgia a business-friendly state.
Gov. Kemp’s budget proposals also reflect his ongoing commitment to protecting the safety of Georgia’s citizens and communities. More than 700,000 gang members have been identified in our state, and these gangs are responsible for increased drug activity, human trafficking and violence. Gov. Kemp seeks to combat this crisis by including a total of nearly $2 million in the AFY 2020 and FY 2021 budgets for seven new positions within the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s (GBI) Gang Task Force, as well as resources to implement the statewide gang database. These new positions and the gang database will serve as a great resource for our law enforcement to better track, stop and dismantle gangs across the state.
The governor’s FY 2021 budget also allocates nearly $90 million to continue our efforts to increase access to affordable, quality health care for Georgians. This funding would support enrollment costs and expense growth for our Medicaid programs, specifically for the aging, blind and disabled populations. The governor’s AFY 2020 budget also includes $23 million for a state match for Disproportionate Share Hospital payments to ensure that certain hospitals that serve low-income patients can benefit from this program, and the state match funds would leverage $47 million in federal assistance to support hospitals across Georgia. Providing these additional resources would improve health care outcomes for all of Georgia’s citizens, especially some of our most vulnerable populations.
Presentations by State Agencies and Departments Regarding Budget Needs
After hearing the governor’s comprehensive proposals, the committee also had the opportunity to hear from several state agencies and departments regarding their respective budgetary needs, as well as the state fiscal economist who shared the state’s economic forecast for the current and upcoming fiscal years. It is important to hear directly from our state agencies and departments during this process in order to adequately determine spending for each state agency, and we will continue to work together as we prepare the final versions of the AFY 2020 and FY 2021 budget bills.
These are just some of the highlights that were discussed during budget week. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hold hearings to review these proposals and delve even further into the governor’s recommendations. These subcommittees will eventually pass portions of the state budget in their respective subcommittees, and those portions of the budget will then go before the full House Appropriations Committee, which will review and pass balanced budgets for AFY 2020 and FY 2021. From there, the budget bills will be considered by the House Rules Committee and scheduled for a vote on the House floor. Once the budget bills make their way to the House floor, members will have the chance to ask questions about the budget before voting. Once passed, the House will transmit each bill to our counterparts in the Senate, where they will review and pass both budget bills.
As has been the case during my first five years in the Georgia House serving you, I always work to represent your values at the State Capitol and I pledge to continue to do so as long as I am your House District 167 State Representative.
You are welcome to visit me at our capitol office, which is located at Suite 501 in the CLOB (Cloverdale Legislative Office Bldg.). You may call my capitol office at 404-656-0178; additionally, I can be reached via email at [email protected]. I encourage you to reach out to me and share your thoughts and opinions as this legislative session progresses.
Now that session is underway, I want you to know that I will continue to work diligently on behalf of our entire district. Using tools like this newsletter, I hope you will take the opportunity to stay informed on legislative matters that affect our district and state. Our House website, www.house.ga.gov, has a number of tools to help you stay up-to-date on what’s going on at the Capitol. You can watch a live-stream of the House proceedings, and or archived committee meetings and review legislation we are considering.
As always, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative for House District 167.
With kind regards