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Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 10:53am

Governor Releases 2013 Budget

Gov. Nathan Deal released his 2013 budget proposal Wednesday and the $19.2 billion spending plan calls for more money for education. That’s a marked contrast from previous budgets.

The new budget is up $900 million from last year.

Gov. Deal wants to spend $56 million on raises for Georgia’s teachers. He’s also asking for $1.6 million for a program aimed at boosting third grade reading scores.

The budget includes about $110 million to cover enrollment growth at the state’s universities and technical colleges.

The state’s Chief Financial Officer, Debbie Dlugolenski says that’s significant.

“Last year we did not fund enrollment growth in the university and technical college system so certainly this is much needed additional funding in our higher education system," she said.

The budget also calls for $10 million to encourage economic growth in rural areas.

Alan Essig of the nonprofit Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says it's a modest spending plan.

“We’re in a much better situation than we were three or four years ago," he said an interview at the Capitol. "We’re not facing the drastic budget cuts that we had. The Governor has been able to put some additional money into some things. It’s mostly a status quo budget.”

Essig says Deal is not proposing any new big new programs. And he says the budget remains anemic, compared to pre-Recession levels. But he says Deal is doing what he can, and the renewed commitment to education is key for the state's future.

The Governor's plan pays for spending increases with rising tax collections.

Deal is using zero-based budgeting on 10 percent of state programs. That means officials have to justify each dollar of funding. Deal says the move will save Georgia about $9 million in 2013.

The proposed spending plan calls for the elimination of about 900 state positions, most of which are vacant. Last year, about 14,000 positions were cut.

Deal's budget doesn't include the impact of tax proposals he unveiled on Tuesday. The proposals include waiving the sales tax on energy used in manufacturing. Dlugolenski, the state's CFO, says the impact of that tax cut would be about $140 million. Lawmakers will have to cut other parts of the budget to accommodate the cut, if it becomes part of legislation that passes the legislature.

By state law, it's up to the Governor to set the overall revenue estimate for state expenditures each year, but both the state House and Senate have to approve the spending plan.