Ga. House OK’s 2018 ‘Little Budget’

The Georgia House of Representatives approved last week a midyear spending bill to make use of additional revenues for fiscal year 2018, appropriating more than $300 million in new money.

The supplemental budget, known around the capitol as the “Little Budget,” will keep state agencies and offices running through June 30, when a new fiscal year will begin.

More than a third of the newly apportioned revenue will go to public schools and colleges. Other tens of millions will be directed to health care programs serving poor Georgians.

The so-called Little Budget now goes to the Senate for consideration, and its eminent passage brings the General Assembly one step closer to addressing and completing its singular constitutional obligation: passing a balanced spending plan, known as the Big Budget, for the next fiscal year.

Elsewhere in the capitol …

A House education subcommittee green lighted a proposal to address supplemental funding inequities for charter schools across the state, while another committee approved legislation providing for a new sales tax exemption to help pay for a potential expansion by the Georgia Aquarium.

Senator Brandon Beach has introduced his long-awaited transit reform bill, which would create new transit funding mechanisms through an optional local sales tax. The stipulates that MARTA would operate any service funded by the new tax. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Provide for a 1% Transit SPLOST and excluding that tax from the 2% cap;
  • Allow counties to fund transit projects within their jurisdiction, subject to approval of those projects by the Commission, and referenda would be carried out in accordance with other such SPLOSTs.  Approved projects would then be evaluated and prioritized by the local jurisdictions affected in conjunction with MARTA.  Local jurisdictions will also have the option to execute intergovernmental agreements with MARTA under which MARTA would assume control of future transit services.  For all intents and purposes, this bill would appear to impact 13 metro Atlanta counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Coweta, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding, and Rockdale; and
  • Create the Atlanta-region Transit Link “ATL” Commission as a new division under the Georgia Regional Transportation Commission. The purpose of this Commission is to plan and coordinate the provision of transit services, the establishment of transit facilities, and the funding of those purposes throughout its jurisdiction. This jurisdiction consists of any county which has approved a MARTA tax or any county which has approved a Transit SPLOST.  Initially the Commission would consist of 11 members.

Spurred by recommendations from House Rural Development Council, legislation has been introduced in the House that would finance the cost of developing rural broadband with a new tax on digital content streaming services like Netflix.

Haslam delivers final State of the State

The following comes by way of Dentons 50 partner Adam Nickas of Capitol Resources.

On Monday, before a joint session of the Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam delivered his eighth and final State of the State address. While much of his speech reflected on his past seven years in office, Haslam also indicated his primary areas of focus for his final year in office, including curbing opioid abuse, restructuring the state’s juvenile justice system, and ensuring a higher percentage of post-secondary degree attainment.

Among the accomplishments the Governor touted:

  • Lowest unemployment rate in the state’s history;
  • Nearly 400,000 net new private sector jobs;
  • Fastest-improving state in the nation in Math, Science, and English;
  • $572 million in tax cuts, including a 30% percent cut on the grocery tax;
  • Tripling the state’s Rainy Day Fund, totaling $850 with passage of this year’s budget.

Looking toward his final year in office, Haslam hopes to build upon his post-secondary education initiatives of “Tennessee Promise” and “Tennessee Reconnect”- programs that allow every Tennessean access to community and technical colleges tuition-free. With his new initiative of “Complete to Compete,” Haslam hopes to increase attainment of degrees or certificates for individuals to more easily enter the workforce. This will be accomplished by reforming financial aid and the lottery scholarship to ensure on-time completion.

As a result of months of collaboration with both the legislative and judicial branches, Haslam also indicated his intent to implement recommendations to bring needed reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system. This includes how to better deter out-of-home placements of youth when possible, keeping them close to their community, and addressing disparities among counties in dealing with juvenile crime.

As opioid abuse continues to plague the state, the Governor announced the “TN Together” plan last week with a request of $30 million for prevention, treatment and greater resources for law enforcement. The proposal includes a 5-day cap on initial opioid prescriptions, incentivizing inmates to complete intensive treatment programs, and updating the schedule of controlled substances.

Other items among Haslam’s $37.5 billion budget request:

  • More than $200 million in new state funding for K-12 education;
  • Nearly $100 million for higher education initiatives;
  • $128 million for job growth investments, including programs that target rural communities.

The Republican and Democratic primaries for Governor is in August. Among the hopefuls are former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean (D), Congressman Diane Black (R), House Speaker Beth Harwell (R), Former Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd, Businessman Bill Lee (R), House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D), and State Senator Mae Beavers (R).