The Georgia General Assembly has approved the 2016 Amended State Budget. The next stop for the so-called “little” budget is Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

The amended plan started in the House last month after Gov. Deal introduced it in mid-January. The House made minor changes and sent it to the Senate, which passed its version of the spending plan last week with small tweaks. The House then made several minor changes Tuesday and sent it back to the Senate, where it won final approval Wednesday.

“Most of the new money in the amended budget goes for transportation, about $800 million for new transportation funding and there is some other relatively small adjustments for enrollment growth in public schools, for enrollment growth in Medicaid and Peachcare,” said Tim Sweeney, the deputy policy director at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

“But it is largely still a status quo budget moving forward,” Sweeney added.

Gov. Deal’s Planning and Budget Director, Theresa MacCartney, said the amended budget focuses on education and healthcare needs.

“The main one really is the K-12 midterm adjustments, about $109 million,” MacCartney said at a budget press conference last month .

“In addition to that, healthcare around Medicaid needs is about $90 million and a portion of that really is to fund all $26 million around hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis,” she explained.

One of the main responsibilities of the Georgia Legislature when they convene every year is to pass a state budget. This year is no different, but passing the annual spending plan is generally one of the last actions the Georgia House and Senate take during the session.

However, releasing the state budget proposal and any amended budget for the current fiscal year is one of the first things the governor does and Deal did exactly that the first week of the session last month, releasing the amended proposal for 2016 and a record $24 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2017.

The 2017 proposed spending plan includes a 3 percent raise for teachers and public employees, millions of dollars for new transportation and education, and healthcare funding.

The governor’s chief of staff Chris Riley says the record fiscal proposal may sound like a massive budget plan, and it does top the current estimated budget of $22.9 billion by $2 billion, but he says it’s below the highest per capita spending levels seen in the early 2000s.

“While FY 2017 represents the largest estimated revenues Georgia has had to date, when adjusted for inflation and population growth, per capita spending in FY 2017 will be $2,324, nearly identical to spending levels in 1998 and still below peak per capita spending levels seen in the early 2000s,” Riley said.

“If you start taking inflation and population growth into account it doesn’t look like as much of a record anymore and really on some level every year should be a record, every year the state grows, more people move here, costs of things go up,” said Sweeney.

“So when the revenue starts going down that’s a problem,” he added.

Some of the highlights of the governor’s 2017 spending plan include $825 million in funding for transportation projects, more than $300 million for teacher salary increases, including pre-K teachers, $109 million in healthcare spending, and $59 million in additional lottery funds for the Hope and Zell Miller scholarships.

Tags: Georgia Legislative Session 2016, Georgia General Assemby, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal