Gov. Nathan Deal signed a $19.3 billion state spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year Monday, but not before using his line-item veto to cut several projects added by legislators in the final month of the 2012 session.
More than half the budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, will go to education, but the plan doesn't provide cost-of-living raises for the state's more than 200,000 teachers and employees. Many of them have not had raises since before the Great Recession began affecting state revenue in 2008 and 2009.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Deal said he was sparing with his veto.
"I worked with legislators on the front end to make sure we’d have as few line-item vetoes as possible, and we have succeeded in doing that," the statement said. "I think the best way to eliminate wasteful or inefficient spending isn’t with a line-item veto – which is an important tool – but by never allowing such projects into the budget in the first place.
Among the items Deal disallowed was an appropriation of $1.75 million to cover a weight-loss surgery benefit in the state's health plan.
"This language limits the department’s ability to effectively manage the State Health Benefit Plan and control expenses," Deal's statement said of the State Department of Community Health.
State spending remains more than $1 billion below what it was in 2008. However, federal funding has increased, so the total state-federal budget next year will top $39 billion.
Lawmakers loaded the budget Deal proposed in January with about $140 million worth of extra University System and Technical College System construction projects.
Lawmakers also added, at Deal's request, $111 million in last-minute money for economic development projects. Most of the money came from the national mortgage fraud settlement agreement. Administration officials want to use it as a "deal closing" fund to attract businesses.
Budget writers also added nearly $3.5 million to pay for upgrades at the Department of Revenue to handle a key part of the new tax plan approved in March. The measure would have car buyers pay a title fee, rather than sales tax or property taxes, on their cars.
The new budget spends about $100 million more in both the K-12 and university education systems. Most of the money will merely pay for needs associated with enrollment growth in schools.
- An appropriation of $3 million for renovation of the Rural Development Center at the University of Georgia's campus in Tifton. The governor noted that the project was not sought by the Board of Regents and did not appear on the board's list of priorities for capital projects.
- The benefit for weight-reduction surgery that the Senate added to the budget. The State Health Benefit Plan, which offers health insurance to nearly 670,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and dependents, is facing a shortfall of more than $60 million.
- $1.47 million for improvements to a number of railroad crossings. Deal said the Department of Transportation has enough money to finance the projects without having to borrow more.
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