The 2014 General Assembly ended with the passage of a $20.8 billion budget to run the state for the period July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015 and featured the first sizable increase in K-12 education spending in over 6 years.
The largest single increase was in the QBE funding formula for teaching, which increased $314.3 million and was focused on ending furloughs and getting students and teachers back in the classroom for the full 180 days.
Equalization was fully funded at $479.5 million with a $5 million addition, and funding for school nurses increased by $414,585.
A $5 million Innovation Grant Program was created to reward and recognize K-12 innovative initiatives. The Bond package included Capital Outlay funds to build new schools totaling $275.2 million.
• Technical colleges gained several new programs
• Tuition assistance totaling $5 million for high demand job training like diesel mechanics, welding, health and technology
• $7.3 million for “Zell Miller” Scholarships paying 100 percent tuition for students with a 3.5 GPA or higher
• $2.15 million for tuition and costs for dual enrolled students
• In lottery funds, Gov. Deal has created a $10 million Low-Interest Loan Program.
State employees will receive merit-based 1 percent pay increases, and employees in critical areas like Corrections, Department Juvenile Justice and others will get additional increases.
The Airport Aid Program will receive new state funds totaling $8 million which will be matched by federal funds of approximately $20 million to make improvements on airports around the state.
Programs like Meals on Wheels and several Disability programs all received new funding.
In Public Health, the legislature added new funding for Hepatitis C Screenings. Also, new funds were appropriated to establish an Alzheimer’s Registry and to train early autism intervention providers for the early diagnosis of children with autism.
In Behavioral Health, $34.4 million was appropriated to meet the Dept. of Justice Agreement and will be used to fund 75 new waiver slots for the New Options Waiver and Comprehensive waivers.
Also, there is new funding of $390,625 for supported employment of developmentally disabled young people and $100,000 for Post-Secondary Education for disabled young adults.
In the Department of Human Services, there are a number of new positions to meet the overwhelming demand. The budget adds state funds to retain 235 Child Support Agents where federal funding is going away. It also funds 16 new positions in the Child Protective Services Communications Center, and $8.l9 million for 175 new Child Protective Service workers.
$3. 2 million is for the State Health Benefit Plan to begin funding Autism therapy for children and children’s hearing aids.
These are the major points for the upcoming budget. Please call with any comments and questions.
Finally, remember to vote in the May 20 primary. Early voting starts April 28.
Senator Fran Millar