ATLANTA -- Education would be the major beneficiary of a $20.8 billion state budget approved overwhelmingly Monday by the Georgia House of Representatives.
The fiscal 2015 budget, which passed 169-4, would increase state spending by $916 million over the budget adopted by the General Assembly last spring. Nearly 72 percent of that new spending - about $663 million - would go toward Georgia K-12 and higher education.
"Education funding is the hallmark of the bill before you today," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn, told lawmakers during a presentation of the budget.
The spending plan earmarks $314 million to local school systems to restore the full 180-day school calendar throughout the state, eliminate teacher furlough days and give teachers pay raises. Gov. Nathan Deal outlined those three goals when he unveiled his spending proposals last month.
On the higher education side, $12.2 million would go the HOPE grants program to offer full tuition to technical college students with at least a 3.0 grade point average.
House budget writers made a series of changes to the governor's spending recommendations as the budget went through the appropriations panel, including the following additions:
• $58 million to the State Health Benefit Plan to reflect changes the Georgia Board of Community Health approved last month following a deluge of complaints from workers hit with higher out-of-pocket costs.
• $1 million to the state's trauma care network to reflect an increase in collections from "super speeder" fines in Georgia.
• $400,000 to design a workforce development curriculum for Georgia's growing film, TV and digital media industries.
• $150,000 to create a database to help the Georgia Bureau of Investigation catch scrap metal thieves.
• $90,000 to let the state Public Service Commission hire an additional employee to handle cost oversight of the nuclear expansion at Georgia Power Co.'s Plant Vogtle.
The budget now moves to the state Senate.