At the state Capitol, it’s time to take a deeper dive into Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget. GPB's "Lawmakers" will continue work on the amended budget for the fiscal year 2019 and the general budget for the fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.
Any action will take place during a short week for the General Assembly. The calendar calls for lawmakers to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday because of the Super Bowl next weekend. The following week, lawmakers will return on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for a four-day week, including a rare Friday session.
Also, anticipated in the coming days, is a release of legislative priorities by the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses.
Lawmakers began the budget process this past week with several days of joint budget hearings. The next step is for the leadership to assign the specific proposals to committees to go over the requests.
Among the significant budget items, the governor outlined in both his State of the State address and the FY20 budget which was released the same day, are proposals for additional money for education, Medicaid, voting machines and transportation.
In particular, Kemp proposed $150 million in bond funds to replace the state’s 16-year-old voting machines. He also wants to allocate $69 million to give the state’s 2,294 public schools $30,000 each to spend on safety and security measures.
Kemp also announced plans for the state’s teachers to receive a $3,000 pay increase as a down payment on the $5,000 hike he promised during his campaign. In the area of Medicaid, while he did not offer specifics, he proposed $1 million in the Department of Community Health’s budget to create a waiver plan that would allow for more flexibility in using federal funding for the program.
In response to the governor’s budget proposals, Democratic lawmakers applauded his focus on education, but want more, including a community-based schooling system and proposed a program that will allow student loan borrowers more leeway to repay their loans over 10 years.
As for Kemp’s proposed waiver for Medicaid, State Sen. Harold Jones II of Augusta called for an expansion on Medicaid and not a waiver. Among other things, Jones said Medicaid expansion would allow hospitals to “keep their costs in line, their patients secure, and their workers employed.”