Georgia Senate Passes FY 2015 Budget

first_img Legal Advocate Discusses Medical Abuse At Shut Down Georgia ICE Facility Related Stories The Georgia Senate overwhelmingly approved the state budget for the 2015 fiscal year. The $20.8 billion dollar budget includes $770 million new dollars in funding over the current budget. Democratic leaders sparred with Republicans over Medicaid and education funding.1:46Senators approved one percent merit pay increases for state employees, many of whom have not had a pay raise since the start of the great recession. They also voted for a more than $530 million dollar funding boost for K-12 education. The amount is slightly less than what Gov. Deal proposed in his budget. $314 million of that would go to the state’s education funding formula. Republican Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill says the funding comes in a year with a slight increase in state revenue.“When you look at all the numbers together this budget still focuses on the critical needs of the state, so I would commend it to you and say it’s a very moderately increased budget.”Hill says that will help schools all over the state by putting teachers in classrooms. He also hopes the funding will allow all schools in the state to have at least 180 instructional days.But Senate Minority leader Steve Henson said even though the budget includes additional education money it doesn’t do enough to restore years of austerity cuts.“Even when you take into account the additional funds to reduce that down from a higher level. It’s still a $750 million dollar austerity cut in from our funding formula in education.”Still, Henson ultimately ended up voting for the budget. Meanwhile, Democratic minority whip Vincent Fort went back and forth with Senator Hill over Medicaid expansion. Fort says the state is turning down free federal money by not expanding under the Affordable Care Act.“Wouldn’t 100 percent money and 90 percent for seven years thereafter, isn’t that a pretty good deal?”But Hill disagreed with Fort.“The concern in my mind is that we have so much dependence on the federal government that any change they make can have dire effects in this state.”Fort joined 3 other Democrats to vote against the budget…including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Senator Jason Carter.The budget also includes $35 million for the Port of Savannah deepening project.Senate and House leaders will now meet to hammer out their differences before sending a final budget to the governor. Senator Hill said one of the main topics of discussion in those committees will be books for high school students who are also enrolled in technical schools. The Senate restored $3.4 million in funding that was removed in the House version for those books. 1:46 | Play story Add to My ListIn My List Share For Whom The Bell Rings ‘It’s Fractured’: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan On Healing Republican Partylast_img read more