Georgia House budget ups funds for hurricane, school safety

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The Georgia House has approved a midyear budget adjustment that increases funding for school safety and farmers hit by the devastation of Hurricane Michael in October.

Republican Rep. Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations committee, said the $192.5 million in additional expenditures passed Friday comes after better than anticipated continued revenue growth.

England said, however, that it represented a conservative approach and plans ahead for “little bumps” the state could see in the coming year as revenues fluctuate because of state tax cuts passed in 2018.

The new budget puts $10 million more in state funding into the Georgia Development Authority to bolster a loan program created during a special legislative session in November. The program benefits farmers and people in the agricultural sector impacted by Hurricane Michael, which wreaked havoc on southwest Georgia and caused billions of dollars of crop damage.

England said the program had already distributed $55 million in loans, and that the additional funding would help 30 to 35 farmers in the state.

The budget also includes funding for school safety put forth in Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget proposal. It allocates $30,000 for each public school in the state for increased security measures, like additional school resource officers, decided at the local level. The budget also includes over $8 million for mental health resources in Georgia high schools.

The amended budget, which runs through June 30, received bipartisan support. It passed the House by a vote of 166 to 8.

House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said that while he supported the budget, he wanted the legislature to consider a plan he put forward that would fully expand Medicaid at a cost to the state of about $150 million a year.

The budget that passed included $1 million in state money to fund a consultant to analyze options for a Medicaid waiver favored by Republicans and the governor.