(The Center Square) – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state’s $27.2 billion budget for the 2022 fiscal year on Monday, approving a 2.5% increase in spending over the current fiscal year.
The plan for spending, starting July 1 through June 30, 2022, gradually replaces more than $2 billion that was cut from the budget at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It calls for spending more money on health care, education, transportation, state positions, internet access and economic initiatives. Budget writers backfilled the budget where they could with federal funds and redirected state funding to other expenses.
Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Senior Tax and Fiscal Policy Analyst Danny Kanso said the plan does not do enough for Georgians.
“This budget falls far short of our state’s potential & maintains $850 million in cuts from two years ago, pre-pandemic levels,” Kanso tweeted. “These cuts will hurt Georgians, schools & our economy.”
Lawmakers restored 60% of the cuts made to base funding for K-12 schools and cuts made to legislation operations and public safety. The state also will spend more money on retirement benefits for teachers. State corrections officers, medical examiners, food inspectors, public defenders, prosecutors and state troopers will receive raises under the fiscal year 2022 plan. It also funds new positions in the judiciary system and the departments of agriculture, public safety, labor and natural resources.
The state will spend about $40 million more on behavioral health services for Georgians under the proposal. Demand for state-supported services has increased during the pandemic, lawmakers said.
The Georgia Legislature set aside $39.5 million for the Rural Innovation Fund for economic and medical technological advances in rural communities. The state also will spend $10 million to expand broadband internet access under the plan. It includes $6.7 million for therapeutic care for foster care children and $1.5 million for a new secure ballot paper required under the election law.
Lawmakers also increased funding for nursing homes, domestic violence and sexual abuse shelters, tourism, respite care services, rural health and a dyslexia screening program. They plan to borrow $1 billion for various capital improvement and projects at universities, colleges and libraries.