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How will Georgia budget cuts affect the CSRA?

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 5:54 AM EDT
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A revised version of Georgia’s state budget for the upcoming year would cut $2.6 billion in state money after Gov. Brian Kemp told lawmakers to reduce spending by 11%.

The next state budget year is just days away.

The full Senate will now debate this new version of cuts. It heads to the House next week. The budget must be passed by July 1.

The latest p[roposal is less severe than the 14% reductions Kemp and top lawmakers originally were preparing. But it will still mean service cuts, unpaid furloughs and layoffs across state government, K-12 schools and state colleges and universities. Republicans have chosen to focus on cuts instead of seeking more revenue from tax increases or spending from state savings.

Here’s a look at what’s happening in the Georgia General Assembly and how it could affect the CSRA:

Schools

The new budget plan includes cutting more than $1 billion in K-12 education funding.

Richmond County school officials say they are already working on way to make sure the school year runs smoothly regardless of cuts.

They say education and safety are the top priority.

But in Columbia County, schools stopped hiring and vacant positions will stay that way.

Superintendent Dr. Sandra Carraway says educators there already planned to decrease their budget by 10% —  $20 million.

But she says a 14% cut could be detrimental.

The district is already being proactive.

“We increased class sizes in kindergarten through third grade by one student, which by doing that by one student we saved about 21 teaching positions,” Carraway said. 

Districts are expecting a final decision within the next two weeks.

Human services

In the new budget, cuts to nursing homes and child services through the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services are nowhere near as drastic as first proposed.

For seniors, all nursing home ombudsmen positions are now saved. An ombudsman is an advocate for senior citizens in cases of abuse and neglect. Twelve nursing home inspectors were slated to be cut, but now only one will be lost. Some employees are even getting a raise. Home delivery meals to senior citizens will also not be cut.

Lawmakers are trying to protect at-risk children as well. The new proposal includes shifting $1 million from marriage and divorce fees and funneling it into child services.

Now, $6 million in employee furloughs are proposed versus $20 million suggested last week. Some employees will get a pay raise to fight high turnover. There's also more money for merit-based pay, employee recruitment, and retention. But a $1 million will still be axed from the child abuse registry. Foster care services will still lose funding. One-hundred and twenty-seven vacant social services positions, or caseworkers for children, will be eliminated. Also funds to recruit new foster parents will be slashed by a quarter-million dollars.

As for mental health and addiction services, there are no changes there. As much as $2 million dollars may still be cut there.

Also at the Georgia Capitol

  • Some patients in Georgia could soon get a reprieve from receiving unexpected medical bills under legislation heading to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. House Bill 888 received final passage in the state Senate on Wednesday. It would require insurers in many cases to pay for care by a doctor or at a hospital not within their network of providers. It also would limit patient liability for any costs. Kemp has previously expressed support, declaring it a top priority in his State of the State address in January. Lawmakers have been trying to tackle the issue for several years without success, but the effort gained momentum this session.
  • A bill that would impose a flat tax of 50 cents on trips in Georgia taxis, ride-hailing services and limousines is on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. The Senate voted 41-3 to approve a conference report on Thursday. It says services such as Uber and Lyft won’t be subject to regular sales tax, which can be 7% or higher. The services argued the regular sales tax is too much to charge on a trip. Efforts to entirely exempt the companies from taxes failed. A revenue estimate suggested the move would bring in up to $45 million in the first full year. The bill would dedicate the money to transit projects statewide. The fee would rise with inflation.

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