The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Terry England, unveiled a GOP-backed budget plan for the financial year starting in July that alters a proposal submitted by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
The plan comes after Georgia has endured years of budget cuts as tax revenues sank below a financial high-water mark set just before the recession.
None of the proposed changes from lawmakers radically depart from the governor’s plan.
England said House lawmakers disagreed with Deal’s proposal to take roughly $2.6 million meant for schools with small student populations — typically, in rural Georgia — and combine it with state money that is given to all districts. England said the result would have been to dilute the money flowing to rural districts, resulting in a funding cut.
“You’re talking about systems with about 200 or 300 students,” he said. “Getting $150,000 to them is like winning the lottery.”
The new budget plan would require state education officials to study the need for those grants.
In other moves, House lawmakers have proposed softening some of the cuts proposed to a school nutrition program.
Georgia is spending less money than expected on Medicaid, a government-run health insurance program for the aged, blind, disabled and poor families with children. Since program spending is down compared to projections, England said the state can avoid millions of dollars in proposed cuts in payments to medical providers.
The plan endorses Deal’s call to increase the number of instructional days in the state’s pre-kindergarten program from 170 to 180. The program was trimmed during earlier budget cuts.
The spending proposal must still be approved by the full House. If accepted, it would next head to the Senate for consideration.