Georgia House approves pay raises, bonuses for employees and teachers

House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) presents HB 81 in the House Chambers on day 27 of the Georgia Legislative Session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, March 5, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) presents HB 81 in the House Chambers on day 27 of the Georgia Legislative Session at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Friday, March 5, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

About 300,000 state, university and K-12 employees are a step closer to receiving raises and bonuses after the Georgia House on Friday approved a midyear state budget.

The Georgia House voted 152-4 to pass a plan that would increase spending by $2.6 billion this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The budget now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Gov. Brian Kemp — who is up for reelection this year — was able to request big increases in salaries, education and health care because tax collections are running 17.9% ahead of last year for the first seven months of fiscal 2022.

Typically, the midyear budget is used to fund school enrollment and increased costs for Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor, disabled and nursing care.

But after ending fiscal 2021 with a $3.7 billion surplus, and now seven months of continual revenue growth, Kemp and lawmakers are thinking big. Kemp has proposed sending $1.6 billion back to taxpayers when they file their income tax returns this year.

The midyear plan includes more than $500 million to give about 100,000 state and University System of Georgia employees a $5,000 raise. State officials hope raises will help stem the high turnover rate among state workers, many of whom have seen little or no salary boost in recent years.

Full-time k-12 employees — such as teachers and staff — would receive a $2,000 bonus payment, while part-timers would get $1,000. Teachers are expected to be offered a $2,000 raise in fiscal 2023, allowing Kemp to meet his 2018 campaign promise of giving them a $5,000 increase over the course of his first term.

The spending plan includes about $390 million to restore spending cuts to k-12 schools that lawmakers approved in 2020, when reductions were made in anticipation that the COVID-19 pandemic would bring a severe recession.

The midyear plan includes an increase of more than $250 million in Medicaid spending and $432 million to get a start on a proposal to buy a private prison and build a new one. The idea is the new bed space would replace more run-down and dangerous facilities.

The midyear spending plan includes $112.6 million to buy and develop the land for Rivian’s new electric-vehicle manufacturing plant east of Atlanta.