ATLANTA — As lawmakers arrived home from the 2014 legislative session that ended at midnight Thursday, many were bringing the bacon with them from Atlanta.
The $21 billion budget the General Assembly passed for the fiscal year starting July 1 has something for everyone thanks for significant increases in tax collections and improving emergency reserves.
To stoke the fires of the state’s No. 2 economic engine, $35 million is going toward preparing the Port of Savannah for bigger ships. On Wednesday, the day after the legislature passed the budget, Gov. Nathan Deal highlighted the investment when he addressed an international logistics conference.
“The future is bright for our deepwater ports, which last year set new records in both imports and exports,” he said. “We are working diligently to get our harbor deepened.
Addressing long-range job creation, the budget includes $579 million in additional spending on education, the largest single category of increase and the biggest boost in K-12 funding in seven years. Lawmakers left it to local school boards whether to spend that on teacher pay raises, restoring days of instruction or other expenditures.
Another $5 million will go toward technical-college courses in welding, health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology. Students can get training in those fields for free.
The budget also increased the benefits from the HOPE grant to other technical-college students as well as the HOPE scholarship for university students.
There is $16.3 million for local school construction, plus $2.5 million for faster Internet connections and $2 million for computers in public libraries.
“It’s been our commitment as a party and as legislators to give back when we can,” said Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla.