Gov. Nathan Deal today signed into law the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, which takes effect upon the start of the fiscal year on July 1 and includes the largest single year increase in k-12 funding in seven years. The FY 2015 budget expects the economic growth Georgia has seen since emerging from the Great Recession to accelerate and includes an estimated revenue increase of 3 percent, or $602.5 million, over the Amended FY 2014 budget. This marks the fourth year in a row the governor has successfully and conservatively balanced the state’s budget without raising taxes and while providing for long-term strategic investments necessary to keep Georgia competitive in the global economy.
“Since taking office I have budgeted conservatively, downsized state government, implemented real tax reform and created jobs as we rebounded from the Great Recession,” Deal said. “It is through these measures that we now have the opportunity to fund our state’s top priorities. This year, more than 80 percent of new revenue receipts are dedicated to education, with 66 percent of those new revenues going to K-12 alone. Our schools are the front line in our effort to create prosperity. It is here we make our most strategic investment in the future.”
The additional funds for k-12 education will provide local school systems with both the resources and flexibility to address the most critical needs of their students and teachers. The budget also includes funding for a number of postsecondary education programs.
“We are putting our education where our economy is,” Deal said. “In order to fill the needs of a growing economy, Georgia needs more of our citizens to acquire education and skills beyond high school. The postsecondary degree programs included in this year’s budget will play a critical role in creating a trained and reliable workforce and attracting new investment. I commend the General Assembly for enacting a budget that will help keep us the No. 1 place in the country to do business and create jobs.”
FY 2015 Investments and Highlights:
· $514.3 million in additional funds for the Quality Basic Education programs to fund enrollment growth and teacher training and experience while also allowing local systems additional resources to increase instructional days, reduce teacher furloughs, or enhance teacher salaries.
· $16.5 million in bonds for local school systems and the University System to expand PeachNet and provide the technology infrastructure needed for internet access in public school classrooms, as outlined in recommendations of the Digital Learning Task Force.
· $5 million to establish the Georgia Innovation Fund to award grants to local school systems to implement and disseminate innovative programs in public education.
Expands affordable access to quality higher education by providing:
· $22.5 million for a 3 percent increase in the award amount for HOPE scholarships and grants over FY 2014;
· $5 million for the Strategic Industries Workforce Development Grant to provide additional financial assistance above what is covered by the traditional HOPE Grant for students pursuing high demand certificate or diploma programs;
· $7.3 million to establish the new Zell Miller Grant award as part of the HOPE grant to cover full tuition costs for Technical College students who achieve and maintain a 3.5 GPA;
· $2 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship to provide needs-based scholarships to selected students in the public-private REACH Georgia mentorship and scholarship program; and
· $10 million to establish a new Low Interest Loan Program to assist Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) students with the affordability of a technical college education.
· $23.2 million for resident instruction and $204.3 million in bonds for capital projects for University System of Georgia institutions.
· $6.7 million for technical education and $39 million in bonds for capital projects for TCSG institutions.
· $2 million in additional funds to increase the number of health professionals practicing in the state by developing new graduate medical education programs to train residents.
· $2.6 million for the Complete College Georgia initiative to identify TCSG students at risk of dropping out and provide interventions aimed at assisting these students in completing their post-secondary education.
Infrastructure and Natural Resources
· $35 million in bonds for the Savannah Harbor deepening project.
· $38.9 million for water supply projects statewide.
· $20.1 million in additional motor fuel funds for road and bridge projects, including additional funding for the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank which will leverage local and private funding for transportation projects with significant economic impact.
· $8 million for Airport Aid to expand capacity and provide needed upgrades at regional airports across the state.
The FY 2015 budget development process includes a zero-based budget (ZBB) analysis of 42 budgetary programs, or 13 percent of all budgetary programs.
Deal also signed the following bills today:
· HB 658, legislation that eliminates Georgia’s estate tax. The federal estate tax was phased out in 2002 and estates of decedents with death dates after Dec. 31, 2004, were no longer subject to the tax or required to file a Georgia estate tax return. Because of this, Georgia has collected nominal amounts of state tax over the past five years and this tax is not expected to generate state revenues going forward.
· HB 898, legislation that allows Georgia to join in the Interstate Compact for Juveniles.
· SB 364, legislation that revises and clarifies language in the oversight and implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform Juvenile Code.