Gov. Brian Kemp’s early session promise to allocate additional funding to key areas including education, corrections, nursing, and health care took one step closer to fulfillment today in the state Senate.

House Bill 910, the amended fiscal year budget, passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday. The supplemental budget determines how state funds will be allocated until June 30, the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Bill sponsor and Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) stated, “The proposals reflected in this budget are the proposals that you wrote to me or wrote to the subcommittee chairs and asked to be included for your communities.”

Prior to the pandemic, Georgia faced some economic stressors due to The Great Recession of 2008. Georgians were concerned whether the state could recover.

“Georgians and Georgia’s economy have remained resilient despite challenges on very many fronts,” Tillery said.

The pandemic compounded Georgia’s nursing shortage. The amended budget will allocate funding to address challenges in health care.

Tillery said the health care system makes up 23% of the state budget. Nursing is the entry point of the health care system, and the shortage of nurses in Georgia is now considered to be a crisis, he said.

“It’s no secret that our state needs nurses," he said. "And while many schools are trying to start now, we have currently operating schools with waitlists and others with capacity. This proposed budget provides $5 million in Line 97.1 to support equipment and operation grants for nursing programs with waiting lists and current student capacity. Last year, we turned away over 1,000 Georgia students who wished to enter a nursing program due to a lack of capacity. We would like to use this $5 million to help resolve that.”

Now, hopes are that the House will support and pass the amended proposal.

Tillery also gave credit to members of the House for progress made on the budget — and paid tribute to one in particular.

“While we have the budget now in the Senate, we know we couldn’t be in this position that we are in now without the help from our colleagues across the hall in the House of Representatives and House Appropriations Committee.” Tillery said. “Chairman England has announced that he will not be returning to the House. He has been a strong leader, strong mentor, and friend. His heart and compassion will be reflected in Georgia’s Budget in decades to come.”

Another health care bill, SB 403, the Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act, also passed unanimously on the Senate floor.  

Chair of Health and Human Services Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) said the bill “establishes a statewide framework for community-based co-response teams to intervene in a public safety emergency, deliver mental health care services, and divert an individual in crisis toward a continuum of care and all available resources.” 

SB 403 is included in the mental health package currently in the proposed budget for this session.