Monday November 30th, 2015 6:41AM

Deal would keep Ga. spending relatively flat

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - Georgia would keep state government spending relatively flat under a $19.9 billion budget plan announced Thursday by Gov. Nathan Deal that aims to trim some health care costs while adding limited funding for scholarships and dredging at the Port of Savannah.

The Republican governor faces budget pressures from a recession that has driven down state tax collections and from an increase in people seeking government-funded health care amid the down economy. Given the tepid recovery from the Great Recession and the wrangling over federal fiscal policy, Deal's administration is not counting on major growth.

"While Georgia's economy continues to grow, uncertainty remains at both a national and global level," Deal said in a letter to lawmakers. His plans for the budget year ending in June and the one following "maintain a cautious approach to the current and next fiscal year, focusing on meeting the basic needs of our growing state, eliminating waste and streamlining government, while planning for contingencies in the event larger economic uncertainties impact revenues here at home."

Highlights of Deal's budget plans include:

Calling for policy changes to address health care spending. As the economy slumped, the number of people enrolling in the state's Medicaid program has grown, forcing an increase in state spending. To compensate, Deal earlier ordered state agencies to make budget cuts. His administration has also proposed several policy changes, including cutting payments to medical providers when the sick are readmitted to hospitals for preventable conditions and setting limits on prescription drug coverage.

Restoring 10 days of instruction that were previously cut from a pre-kindergarten program;

Slightly increasing the value of lottery funded HOPE scholarships for college students. Deal and lawmakers previously made deep cuts to the program as lottery revenues slumped.

Proposing a new HOPE grant to assist students in the technical college system who are pursuing high-demand certificates and diplomas;

Adding roughly $300 million in legally required spending to compensate school districts for growth and teacher salaries;

Providing $50 million in state funding for dredging the Port of Savannah to accommodate larger cargo ships. Significant federal funding is still required to finish the project.

Directing an additional $25 million for an ongoing Deal initiative to expand the state's water supply, including by developing reservoirs. Georgia has been locked in a long-running water dispute with neighboring Alabama and Florida.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Medicaid growth creates gap of 5M without coverage; 409K in Ga.
About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America.
7:30AM ( 1 year ago )
Vandals spray graffiti against Kerry in West Bank
Suspected Jewish vandals set fire to three vehicles in a West Bank village early on Tuesday and sprayed threatening graffiti referring to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his expected visit to the region, police said.
7:28AM ( 1 year ago )
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Congress returns to unfinished business, Dec. 11 deadline to complete must-pass spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are returning to Capitol Hill to wrap up work on the budget, highway funding and taxes, an end-of-the-year stretch that will test the standing of Republican leaders like Ho...
7:45AM ( 1 hour from now )
Georgia's Richt stepping down following 'mutual' decision
Mark Richt stepped down as Georgia's coach Sunday, leaving stunned players with one final bowl game with the man who ranks second in wins in school history.
By The Associated Press
7:35AM ( 53 minutes from now )
Cooperative weather, flights aid so-far smooth post-Thanksgiving travel efforts
NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of millions of Americans returning home after the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend Sunday had cooperative weather and mostly efficient airport operations to thank for smooth trav...
1:43AM ( 4 hours ago )
Falcons' slump deepens in 20-10 loss to Vikings
Matt Ryan heard some of the loudest boos of his career after another Falcons loss...
8:13PM ( 10 hours ago )
Newspaper investigation: Campaign reports full of errors
Campaign finance reports filed by state and local officials in Georgia are often riddled with mistakes and discrepancies, with some leaving tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash apparently unaccounted for, an Atlanta newspaper investigation shows.
By The Associated Press
3:21PM ( 15 hours ago )