Tuesday April 23rd, 2024 9:44AM

$5.5 billion in new Georgia spending will pay for employee bonuses, state Capitol overhaul

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia will boost spending by nearly $5.5 billion in the remaining three months of its current budget, providing money to boost roadbuilding, build a new legislative office building and overhaul the state Capitol and pay for $1,000 bonuses already sent to state employees and teachers.

Republican Gov Brian Kemp said the huge boost in spending proves “you can make investments that have an impact when you budget wisely,” just before signing the House Bill 915 at a Thursday ceremony at the Capitol in Atlanta.

Total spending of state revenue will rise to nearly $38 billion, over the $32.5 billion that that lawmakers approved last year. Total spending, including federal aid, college tuition, fines and fees, would rise to $68 billion in the budget running through June 30.

The money would also pay for a new dental school at Georgia Southern University in Savannah and a new medical school at the University of Georgia in Athens. It also spends $500 million to bolster one of the state's pension funds and spends hundreds of millions to pay off other debts.

The state can spend lots more, even though growth in tax collections is slowing, because Kemp set a revenue estimate much lower than what the state will actually collect this year and because Georgia has $10.7 billion in surplus cash beyond its $5.4 billion rainy day fund. Kemp would spend up to $2 billion of the surplus.

Before Christmas, the governor ordered $1,000 bonuses to be paid to state and university employees and public school teachers. The plan includes $315 million to pay for the bonuses. Kemp has also proposes pay raises for employees beginning July 1, which lawmakers will finalize in March when they vote on next year’s budget. Kemp wants state and university employees to get a 4% cost-of-living increase across the board, while teachers would get a roughly equivalent $2,500-a-year increase.

Kemp agreed on Monday to boost state spending to pay for a $392 million project to build a new eight-story building for lawmakers across Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from the north side of the Capitol in downtown Atlanta and to overhaul the Capitol.

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