Senate approves $19.8 billion spending plan for upcoming year

The Senate Friday approved a $19.8 billion budget for the upcoming year that restores proposed cuts to Georgia Gwinnett College and puts state money into startup companies.

It also increases funding for charter school systems, a pet project of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate’s president. And it includes $474 million in “equalization” funding for poor school districts. Under the state’s formula, $137 million of the equalization money will go to Gwinnett, Paulding and Clayton County systems.

The House passed its version of the budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, earlier this month. House and Senate leaders will now begin negotiating a final spending plan. The 2013 session is expected to end next week.

The Senate plan follows much of what was recommended by Gov. Nathan Deal and approved by the House. It fills a $224 million hole in Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled. It puts $147 million more into K-12 education to pay for growth in student enrollment.