ATLANTA – Georgia House budget writers Thursday approved Gov. Brian Kemp’s record $30.2 billion fiscal 2023 state budget, including the long-awaited second and final installment of a $5,000 teacher pay raise.
The spending plan, which takes effect July 1, would increase teacher salaries by $2,000. Teachers got the other $3,000 in 2019 in keeping with a promise Kemp made on the campaign trail the year before.
The full pay raise was held up for a couple of years by the financial uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. But Georgia tax revenues have fared much better than expected, so much so that the governor and lawmakers can afford to be generous in this election year.
“This is an incredible budget for what we’ve been able to do for the least of these among us,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn.
The House budget puts significant funding toward the chamber’s priorities, including increased spending to support an overhaul of Georgia’s mental health-care delivery system sponsored by House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.
Correctional officers in the adult and juvenile prison systems would get an additional raise of $2,000 above the $5,000 increase earmarked in the fiscal 2022 mid-year budget for employees throughout state government.
The extra raises also would go to guards in four private prisons scattered across rural Georgia, even though they are not state employees.
“These facilities are often the largest employers in their communities,” England said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation would add 67 positions, including four new employees dedicated to investigating election complaints.
The House budget also would eliminate special institutional fees the University System of Georgia began charging students after the Great Recession more than a decade ago left the system strapped for cash.
“That’s less money coming out of the student’s pocket, which we all know is the parent’s pocket,” England said.
The state Department of Veterans Services would receive funding to hire a suicide prevention counselor. Veterans in Georgia and across the country suffer from a higher suicide rate than non-veterans.
“These are folks who have defended our freedom,” England said. “We need to make sure they receive the support services they need when they get home.”
The budget now moves to the full House.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.