In a time of uncertainty, lawmakers try to pull together a budget

[private]As legislators start work on the governor’s proposal for a state budget for fiscal year 2019, they are faced with their greatest uncertainty since the Great Recession.

Two big unknowns hang over the spending plan: the tax cut law passed by Congress which will have an impact on the state tax code, and the future of the Children’s Heath Insurance Program known as Peachcare.

Those factors could keep lawmakers working harder than they usually do on the state budget, which this year totals $26.03 billion in state revenues ($50.8 billion when federal funds are included).

State analysts are still running the numbers on the tax code changes, which could well mean decreased state revenues. The fate of Peachcare rests with Congress, which has yet to renew the popular program (Georgia’s version of it will run out of money in March).

Chris Riley, the chief of staff to Gov. Nathan Deal, said he “fully expects” Congress to come through with the money for Peachcare, although there are no guarantees.

“We don’t know how much the impact of federal tax changes will be,” Riley said. “It looks big, it looks expensive to the state.”

There are no pay raises for state employees or teachers in the budget, but there is $359 million allocated to shore up the Teachers Retirement System (TRS).

“We’ll always be on the hook for ensuring this TRS program is fully funded,” Riley said.

The budget includes $166 million in “austerity cuts” in formula funding to K-12 public schools, a level of cutbacks that has been consistent in recent years.

One of the biggest winners in budget is the Board of Regents, who stand to gain a large chunk of bond funding for campus construction projects. Some of these projects are:

  • $49.9 million for a Center for Engineering and Research, Georgia Southern
  • $49.4 million for a College of Science and Math Building, Augusta University.
  • $34.8 million for an Interdisciplinary STEM Research Building, University of
  • $30.6 million for the renovation of the Price Gilbert Library and Crosland Tower complex, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • $19.7 million for the acquisition of the Student Wellness Center, Bainbridge State College.

© 2018 by The Georgia Report



Tags: state budget