Ga. governor signs midyear budget with $1.1 billion in new spending

The Georgia Senate gave final passage Wednesday to a midyear budget, adding $1 billion in new state spending — most of it for k-12 schools and road construction.

The 53-0 vote sent the midyear plan — which takes the state through June 30 — to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature, the first major bill to win final passage in the 2016 legislative session. Deal quickly signed it into law.

Midyear budgets are designed to fill in gaps in annual spending plans approved by lawmakers.

This one will send about $110 million to public school districts to help pay the costs associated with the rising number of students.

Several other school programs would get more money. About $20 million would go to programs designed to let high school students get a head start toward a college degree by taking college courses. An additional $30 million is needed to fully fund HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships. And $15 million was tacked on to provide grants to local school systems for broadband Internet connectivity.

The budget includes an additional $750 million for road projects. That extra money came from fuel and hotel taxes that the General Assembly increased last year.

The final agreement also adds $70 million in one-time funding to expand medical school programs at Morehouse College and Mercer University. The state received the extra money as part of a settlement agreement with the federal government over fouled-up Medicaid payments. Deal announced the allocation last week.

The state House is expected to vote by the end of the week on a budget for fiscal 2017, which begins July 1.

Legislators must approve the budgets before ending the 2016 session in late March.