The State of Our State Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega) Senate Majority Whip
Governor Deal made it clear during his annual “State of the State” address that Georgia’s economy continues to grow in the aftermath of the worst economic collapse of the 21st century. Thousands of jobs are consistently being created every month, home values are on the rise, and Georgia remains the number one state in the nation to do business. Georgia’s Constitutional requirement that our state operates on a balanced budget remains one of the most—if not THE most—important factor to our economic recovery.
While the recession forced lawmakers to make very difficult budgetary decisions and spending cuts, after years of responsible budgeting on the state level, Georgia’s economic landscape is showing improvement. The increase in state funds from $20.8 billion in FY 2015 to $21.7 billion in FY 2016 is proof of a growing economy and allows our state to reinvest in the areas hurt most by the recession.
Georgia’s education programs continue to see the benefits of an improving economy. Governor Deal’s FY 2016 budget recommendations include $239 billion to fund enrollment growth and training for over 1.72 million K – 12 students and 121,000 teachers and administrators. An additional $280 million has been included to increase instructional days and properly compensate our best educators.
The HOPE scholarship program allows Georgia college students to receive a quality, affordable education in their home state, but the program has seen a sharp decrease in funding in recent years. I am pleased that Governor Deal has recommended, for the second year straight, a 3 percent increase in the award amount for HOPE scholarships and grants. This will be funded through $16.7 million in additional lottery funds. Nearly $19.7 million in bonds has been recommended for new capital projects, as well as renovations and new equipment, throughout the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG).
Improving Georgia’s transportation infrastructure remains a top priority for both the Governor and the General Assembly. Approximately $17.5 million in additional motor fuel funds have been allotted for road and bridge projects, based on anticipated collections.
Every year, the Georgia General Assembly must also revise the current fiscal year budget to account for unexpected expenses or revenue shortfalls. The Governor has recommended that the Amended FY 2015 Budget include an additional $134 million to cover school enrollment growth, $4.8 million for Georgia Regents University to conduct clinical trials for the use of cannabidiol oil to treat children with severe seizure disorders, and $15.4 million for the improvement and expansion of child welfare services. Additionally, $20 million is slated for strategic economic development project grants and loans for local communities.
Next week, I will share information about several bills moving through the committee process. Please stay in touch with me and share your thoughts as we work through the legislative session. As always, I am honored to represent you in the 51st Senate District.