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Georgia's Midyear Budget Has Nearly $400M Set Aside for Capitol Hill Building Projects

Wed March 06, 2024 - Southeast Edition #8
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a record $37.9 billion midyear budget Feb. 29 that would pay for massive renovations on Capitol Hill in Atlanta, a new medical school at the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, miles and miles of Peach State roads, extra grants for rural airports, local water and sewer projects, and rural economic development programs.

Much of the budget includes what the governor proposed to lawmakers in January, and the measure would increase spending $5.5 billion, even though state tax collections have been slow for much of the past year and are not projected to improve anytime soon, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But with $16 billion in "rainy day" and undesignated reserves, Kemp and the state's lawmakers saw the midyear budget — which runs through June 30 — as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve Georgia's infrastructure, paying cash for a host of projects that typically take lawmakers years to fund.

The House and Senate had earlier passed the midyear spending plan on Feb. 26.

A late add to the budget proposal that same day included nearly $400 million to build a new legislative office building across from the Capitol and renovate the current Georgia Statehouse. That was made possible by Kemp deciding revenue collections will be better than originally forecasted during the first half of 2024. Lawmakers cannot budget more money than the governor estimates will come in.

"I am proud to sign a budget that further invests in our priorities of public safety, education and workforce development, and strengthened infrastructure to keep Georgia the best state to live, work and raise a family," Kemp said in a news release. "When you add everything in this document up, it demonstrates you can make smart investments when you budget wisely, trust the market rather than try to dictate it, and empower your citizens more than you empower the government."

The money the state collects in taxes helps pay for K-12 schools, colleges, public healthcare, prisons, policing, business regulation, roads and a host of other services.

The new UGA medical school is just one in a range of major infrastructure and education projects covered by the new budget, including a new dental school at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, large-scale computer system upgrades, more money for sewer improvements, and massive spending on building roads.

The state would spend an additional $1.5 billion alone on road building and maintenance, the Atlanta news source reported. Other projects to be funded by the state include $37.5 million on renovations at the Atlanta Farmers Market, and $436.7 million for a new prison in Washington County. Lawmakers also added $19 million to improve security in Georgia's prisons.

The midyear budget also will allocate $29.25 million to pay for infrastructure and public safety costs related to the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2025 College Football Playoff National Championship events in Atlanta.

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