The amended 2013 budget cleared the state Senate Friday and is now headed for a conference committee to resolve discrepancies with the House version. Lawmakers make changes to the budget each year to reflect changes in school enrollment and other items.
The new version of the $19 billion budget for the current fiscal year doesn’t differ much from what lawmakers passed last year.
That’s largely because state revenues didn’t rise as much as predicted. And as a result, lawmakers have had to cut more spending.
Sen. Jack Hill, a Reidsville Republican, chairs the Senate’s budget committee. Speaking to his colleagues, he repeated that message.
“You have the budget on your desk, with the Senate and House changes," he said from the Senate floor. "You’re not going to see a lot of increases and you’re not going to see an awful lot of restoration of cuts, though you will see some that have been selectively made.”
Lawmakers have restored about $1 million for school lunches. They also restored funds for doctor residencies and to the state Archives.
The biggest change is the addition of $167 million to the education budget, mostly to fund the 1 percent school enrollment increase.
That boost to education, however, is balanced with cuts in other areas. State agencies were required to cut an additional 3 percent from their budgets.
When Gov. Nathan Deal drew up the 2013 budget last year, he based it on the idea that state revenues would rise 5 percent. But instead, they’re expected to rise only about 4 percent.
Sen. Steve Henson, a Tucker Democrat, said lawmakers should restore $1 billion in accumulated cuts to education over the past decade. He said that shortfall is not caused by the bad economy.
“But it is caused by tax policies of more than the last ten years that have continued to cut taxes without analyzing their true benefit and impact on the citizens of Georgia,” he said from the Senate floor before the vote.
Lawmakers are still holding hearings on the 2014 budget.