Sen. Sheila McNeill represents the 3rd Senate District which includes Brantley, Camden, Glynn, and McIntosh counties and portions of Charlton County.
While the Senate did not convene for any legislative days this week, legislators were kept busy in budget hearings that met throughout the week. After taking Monday off for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, members of both the Senate and the House Appropriations Committees met for joint hearings to determine where Georgia’s economy stands in order to guide our decisions on where we can, or cannot, allocate our funds.
The COVID-19 pandemic has surely left many feeling pessimistic about Georgia’s economy, however, it is evident that Georgia is bouncing back strong, much stronger than other states. Because of this economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic last year, Gov. Kemp authorized the use of $100 million in Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR) Funds for the Amended 2020 budget, and an additional $250 million in RSR funds for Fiscal Year 2021 to balance out potential budget reductions. After financial assistance from the federal government as well as Georgia’s conservative fiscal leadership, though, we were able to return both the $100 million in RSR funds and we no longer rely on the $250 million in RSR funds to balance the budget.
Additionally, one of our biggest priorities this legislative session will be education. As schools were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19 concerns, we have seen a challenge as many students have fallen behind on their coursework. Gov. Kemp, however, is dedicated to making sure no child falls behind in Georgia. In fact, he is calling on legislators to restore approximately 60% funds from this past year’s K-12 education budget. He also announced that teachers and school staff will receive a one-time $1,000 bonus as a thank you for navigating education through a pandemic.
Making sure Georgian’s across the state have access to the tools they need to learn, work and prosper is key in keeping our economy strong. As businesses, hospitals and schools shifted to functioning remotely, our rural communities have been faced with unique obstacles, as many do not have access to high-speed internet. With this in consideration, the budget will include $20 million in the current fiscal year as well as an additional $10 million a year going forward to create a broadband infrastructure grant program. This will allow Georgians to continue their education and professions virtually, while also expanding telehealth capabilities.
Thanks to Georgia’s conservative financial stewardship, our state is now emerging out of the crisis, and your state legislators will continue to do everything they can to ensure we continue to build a strong economic foundation to keep our state moving in the right direction. Throughout this process, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if I can ever help you or answer any questions. These are your tax dollars being used to fund the state, so your input on how they are spent is not only appreciated, but imperative in ensuring all of Georgia’s needs are met. Additionally, my focus is still set on issues surrounding potential election fraud issues. Please know that we are doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this.