On Friday, March 20th, the Senate approved House Bill 76, the 2016 fiscal year budget amounting to $21.8 billion, which will go into effect on July 1st and increases overall spending by $900 million. This is the largest budget since 2009 and with federal funds included, the 2016 budget totals $40 billion. As required in the Georgia Constitution, the sole obligation of the General Assembly is to pass annually a balanced budget.
Construction received the largest allocation of funds, totaling about $1.1 billion, one-fifth of which will support transportation projects and $23 million to fund the Atlanta Falcons new parking facility. Both the House and Senate budgets exclude the Governor’s recommendation to remove 22,000 part-time school employees and their dependents from the State Health Benefit Plan, however, local school districts will be required to pay an additional $103 million to support the continuation of insurance for bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
Additional items in the budget that receive substantial funding are K-12 schools and college buildings. Under the recommended budget, the HOPE scholarship would receive a 3 percent increase and a 30 percent increase in grants to private college students. The Senate recommendations will need approval from the House and it’s possible the amount could increase if an agreement is reached by both chambers to approve funding measures for transportation. (GA Assiciation of Realtors)