Lawmakers added $17 million to the budget at the end of the 2014 session to expand parking for Falcons fans. Officials had long promised that the state wouldn’t have to chip in for the $1.4 billion stadium. World Congress Center officials didn’t formally ask for the money until the final days of the session, so it got virtually no debate among lawmakers, most of whom didn’t find out about it until after the final budget deal had already been struck.
The $23 million will go toward finishing the project.
The governor’s budget proposal - which the House and Senate will now consider - provides little new money for transportation projects. That, however, can be added later if lawmakers come up with new transportation funding, as they are talking about doing.
Tax collections have been on the rise in recent years, but the state is only now taking in the revenue it was in 2007, before the Great Recession. Meanwhile, there are now thousands of more students in public schools, thousands more in state colleges, thousands more on Medicaid and other public programs.
The state budget that lawmakers will approve, probably sometime in late March or early April, touches a lot of lives.
The $21.7 billion the state will spend next year (more than $40 billion if federal and other revenue are included) helps educate about 2 million students and provide health and nursing care for more than 1.8 million Georgians. The state funds road improvements and prisons, economic development initiatives and cancer research, business and environmental regulation, parks and water projects. It creates thousands of private-sector jobs through construction projects.
State officials began cutting back in the late 2000s when the recession hit, with some agencies seeing budgets shrink 30 percent to 40 percent. While Deal tried to somewhat shield education —- k-12 schools took $1 billion in austerity cuts some years, forcing local school boards to raise property taxes, furlough and lay off teachers, and shorten the school year.
The governor’s proposal for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, would give school districts about $280 million to cut or eliminate teacher furloughs, increase class days and give raises. Local school districts would get to decide how to spend that money.
State agencies would get a 1 percent payroll boost to offer raises to employees.
The governor’s budget proposal this year includes the $25,000 pay raises requested by members of the state Supreme Court and Appeals Court and the $15,000 raises requested by Superior Court judges. Under state law, the governor must pass on the courts’ recommendations without making changes, whether he supports them or not.
The proposed raises, if approved, would dwarf increases given to other state employees.