Gov. Brian Kemp released a $32.5 billion fiscal 2024 state budget proposal Friday that’s heavy on spending for education and gives Georgia teachers and state employees $2,000 raises.
The spending plan, up more than $2 billion over this year’s record budget, is built on an all-time high state surplus of more than $6 billion.
“As we look ahead to the upcoming fiscal year, we expect the state’s economy to be well positioned to withstand any further national economic slowing,” the governor wrote in his annual budget message to legislative leaders.
“As such, the … budgets I am presenting herein ensure that we continue to meet our financial obligations as a state while also investing in the education, health, and safety of our citizens to maintain our position as the best state in the country to live, work, and raise our families.”
Kemp is calling for fully funding Georgia’s Quality Basic Education K-12 student funding formula with $745 million in the fiscal 2023 mid-year budget — which covers state spending through June 30 — and $1.1 billion in fiscal 2024. QBE was not fully funded when Georgia was suffering leaner economic times, but full funding has been restored for the last several years.
On the higher education side, the governor’s budget earmarks $61.2 million to fully fund the HOPE Scholarship program for the first time since then-Gov. Nathan Deal and the legislature cut HOPE benefits more than a decade ago due to growing demand for scholarships combined with rising tuition costs.
After raising teacher salaries in Georgia by $5,000 during his first term, Kemp is calling for another $2,000 raise for teachers and other certified educators. State employees also would see their pay increased by $2,000.
Kemp is fulfilling a promise he made on the campaign trail last year to provide a second $1 billion state income tax rebate on top of the refund Georgia taxpayers received last year. He also is proposing $1.1 billion in property tax relief to homeowners.
“These actions will put real money back in the pockets of hardworking Georgians facing unforeseen jumps in property values and record-high inflation,” the governor wrote.
Other major goodies for education include $115 million to give every k-12 public school a $50,000 school safety grant and $25 million in “learning loss” grants to help offset the impacts of the pandemic on student instruction.
With Georgia poised to become a leader in the electric mobility space, the proposed budget calls for $130 million to build two training facilities for workers in the state’s fast-growing electric vehicles manufacturing industry.
Kemp is seeking to repurpose $35.7 million from the state’s One Georgia rural economic development fund to launch a Rural Workforce Housing Fund to help ensure an adequate supply of housing for workers who will fill the jobs being created in rural communities.
Another $52 million would go to Georgia Pathways, the limited expansion of the state’s Medicaid program backed by Kemp, which is expected to launch in July.
The governor is requesting $25 million to build an additional state prison.
The state House and Senate Appropriations committees will kick off the legislative review of Kemp’s budget recommendations with three days of hearings next week.
The governor will open the proceedings Tuesday with a remote presentation from Switzerland, where he will be appearing on a discussion panel at the World Economic Forum.