The Georgia Senate is supporting changes to the state budget that would add $5 billion in spending, including money for bonuses already paid to state employees and teachers, additional road construction, new medical and dental schools, and repayment of some state debts.

The Senate voted 54-1 on Thursday to approve House Bill 915, which adds money to the current budget through June 30. The House and Senate will now seek to resolve their differences and send the measure to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp once they approve it. accept.

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Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, told senators there were relatively few differences between Kemp’s proposal and those in the House and Senate. “There is agreement for 95% of the budget,” Tillery said.

Kemp proposed increasing spending of state money to $37.5 billion from the $32.5 billion lawmakers approved last year. Total spending, including federal aid, college tuition, fines and fees, would rise to $67.5 billion.

The state can spend much more, even though tax revenue growth is slowing, because Kemp set a much lower revenue estimate than the state will actually collect this year and because Georgia has $10.7 billion in cash surplus beyond its $5.4 billion emergency fund. Kemp would spend up to $2 billion of the surplus.

Because lawmakers can’t spend more than Kemp’s revenue estimate, they can only cut or rearrange the governor’s proposed spending.

Before Christmas, the governor ordered the payment of $1,000 bonuses to state and university employees and public school teachers. The House plan includes $315 million to pay the bonuses. Kemp is also proposing pay raises for employees starting July 1, which lawmakers will finalize in March when they vote on next year’s budget. Kemp wants state and university employees to get a 4% across-the-board cost-of-living increase, while teachers would get a roughly equivalent raise of $2,500 a year.

Fox Georgia Chart

Georgia’s proposed budget would include a $5 billion spending increase, aimed primarily at infrastructure and worker benefits. (FoxNews)

The Senate put its own stamp on Kemp’s plan to spend $1.5 billion more to accelerate planned road work and establish a charging infrastructure program. The Senate would spend $50 million more on road resurfacing to cover the increased costs of asphalt and concrete, saying a federal match means the $100 million proposed by the House is too much. The Senate would cut Kemp’s proposed spending increase on freight transportation infrastructure to $500 million, and cut the state Department of Transportation’s spending increase on major projects to $593 million.

The Senate would use those savings to provide more aid to local governments. It would increase road and bridge aid to cities and counties to $250 million. Aid to local airports would skyrocket to $98 million from the $27 million proposed by the House. The Senate would also increase aid to the state’s railroads to $8.5 million, up from the $4.25 million proposed by the House.

That emphasis on local benefits extends in the Senate budget to an additional $14.1 million for construction at state parks, historic sites and recreation sites and a plan to provide $5 million in community development grants, up from $2 .5 million proposed by the House.

The Senate agreed to plans to spend $451 million to finish a new prison in Washington County and $135 million to repair other prisons. The Senate budget would spend $15.3 million more than the $9.8 million proposed by the House to install technology to prevent state prison inmates from using contraband cell phones.

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Also approved were $500 million to pay off the debt of one of the state’s employee pension funds, $250 million to fund water and sewer work, and $200 million for grants and sites to attract industry.

By Sam