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Georgia House 2023 budget raises pay and agency funding

Teachers, state employees, lawmakers and retirees would receive pay bumps.
Credit: WXIA

ATLANTA — Georgia state government's 2023 budget promises more money for teachers, state employees, lawmakers and retirees, lower fees for university students and more spending on mental health and policing, thanks to bountiful state revenues.

Republican House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England of Auburn, presenting his final budget before he steps down from elective office, called it “a deliberate and thoughtful plan for funding the future. Our future, our state’s future.”

House Bill 911 goes to the Senate for more debate after passing the House 155-3 on Friday. The document would spend $30.2 billion in state tax money, and $57.9 billion overall, big boosts from where the state began its 2022 budget, thanks to bountiful tax revenues and federal assistance.

The document would continue $2,000 raises for teachers and $5,000 raises for state employees that will begin in the separate amended 2022 budget in House Bill 910 that won final passage in the Senate on Friday and was sent to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The 2023 budget also would pay the first cost-of-living increase in 14 years to retired state employees who draw pensions from the Employees Retirement System.

Among those getting $5,000 pay raises would be all the state's elected officials including the 56 state senators and 180 House members. Lawmakers have long complained about low salaries being a disincentive for people to run for office or remain in office.

RELATED: Gov. Kemp pens letter encouraging $5,000 pay bump for state employees

Senators have traditionally been more hesitant about pay raises but agreed to three months of the $5,000 increase starting April 1 when they agreed to the amended budget on Friday. Other state employees will get $3,750 bonus payments, but Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, a Vidalia Republican, has said state law prohibits such bonus payment to elected and certain appointed officials.

There would be additional $2,000 pay boosts for guards in prisons and juvenile justice facilities, an additional pay boost for nurses and others workers at mental hospitals, plus an additional $12 million to boost guard salaries at private prisons that hold Georgia inmates.

“Turnover is crippling our ability to perform the very core services that a state should provide," said England, adding pay raises could help retain and attract employees.

The state would boost university funding by $230 million, with the University System of Georgia agreeing to remove certain fees that were added during the Great Recession, effectively cutting student costs.

The House also wants to spend another $100 million on mental health as part of a larger overhaul. The state plans a new crisis center, a new 18-bed psychiatric unit, and fund plans for mental health workers to accompany police officers on calls and create a form of involuntary outpatient treatment.

RELATED: Georgia House of Representatives passes bill to pause state gas tax

The state would boost Medicaid money used to pay for home services for people with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities by 325. That’s 225 more than the normal 100 increase, but not nearly enough to clear the multi-thousand waiting list for search services. It also increases the number of supportive housing vouchers by 500.

The state would also spend $65 million more on law enforcement as part of a push by House Speaker David Ralston. That includes hiring 10 more state troopers for the state's SWAT team, which serves many rural counties, more pay for troopers working in Atlanta, and 10 more troopers for a DUI task force in metro Atlanta, Macon and Columbus.

“Those are things that are needed," England said afterward. “We're finally in a position to do some of them.”

The budget also restores some state money that was cut at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as funding for forestry and for 22 game wardens. The state would also boost its payments to nursing homes and long-term acute care hospitals.

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