By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor
(The Center Square) — Georgia state lawmakers have signed off on varying versions of a revised budget for fiscal 2023.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, proposed an amended fiscal 2023 budget of nearly $32.6 billion, roughly 7.8% higher than the approved $30.2 billion budget. That number represents total state funds, and when including additional sources, such as federal funds, the budget totals more than $56.7 billion in public funds.
The state House passed House Bill 18, which included about $954,485 in additional total public funds. The Senate Appropriations Committee advanced a budget nearly $3.3 million higher than the governor’s proposal.
On Monday, the House disagreed with the Senate’s substitute version of the budget, while the state senate won’t budge on its version. A conference committee to weigh the various versions of the budget could be appointed as soon as Tuesday.
The Senate Appropriations Committee-approved budget includes $11 million for the Department of Natural Resources for increased funding for outdoor recreation and $4 million for the Georgia Department of Human Services in increased funding to improve technology and security for federal benefits and to reduce fraud. It also includes $1 million for the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency to implement the cyber security force and an additional $541,108 for Senate operations.
Other potential sticking points include the roughly $51.5 million the governor recommended for state prison projects, including 33 emergency repair projects at 19 state prisons. The state House increased the funding to roughly $56.5 million, and the state Senate upped it to $66.5 million.
Kemp also included $25 million for learning loss grants to schools across the state. The state House did not include the funding, but the state Senate included Kemp’s original proposal of $25 million.
The governor proposed a separate fiscal 2024 budget of more than $32.4 billion, slightly less than his proposed fiscal 2023 adjustment.
Last week, the state House also passed House Bill 162, which would send $1 billion in tax refunds to Georgia residents.
Under the measure, the state would send a $250 rebate to single taxpayers or married taxpayers filing separately and $500 to married couples filing a joint return. It would also give $375 rebates in cases of heads of households.
“Thank you to those who voted yes to returning taxpayer money where it belongs – in the pockets of hardworking Georgians,” Kemp tweeted.
The state gave Georgia taxpayers a similar refund last year. The refund is not taxable, lawmakers said.