3/4/2021 - I haven't written about it a lot in these articles, but work on next year's budget is moving right along. The committee chairmen who work on the budget focus almost entirely on this for weeks, and the committee members of these subcommittees work alongside the Chairman making sure we are spending your money wisely and carefully for Georgians. I can't tell you how many hours go into the work to create a budget to meet the needs of Georgians, but it is a lot. On Friday we voted on our version of the 2022 budget. House Bill 81 was passed with overwhelming and Bipartisan votes. It takes the Chairman of the Appropriations committee about two hours to go over the budget in detail and answer questions. There are usually not many questions due to the opportunity of all of us to attend the many meetings that are held to go over every part for weeks. I could easily write 2000 words on the budget but I will hit a few high points; and if you want more, I can send you a more detailed description of what the House passed and sent to the Senate for their input before going to the Governor for his signature; just ask.
This comprehensive budget covers July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, and is set at $27.2 billion, which is an increase of $1.34 billion or 5.2 percent over the current fiscal year budget. Our state is doing well since we opened for business so early in 2021 after the pandemic closed so much of the state. Nearly 90 percent of this new funding in the FY 2022 budget would go towards education and health and human services agencies. Education is the largest single expenditure in the state's budget, totaling $10.2 billion, and it was good to restore 60 percent, or $567 million, of the reductions made to K-12 education funding formulas in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
HB 81 adds more than $58.5 million for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, including $2.7 million to provide addictive disease services to an additional 2,100 people; $6.5 million to provide mental health services to an additional 5,200 people; $12.3 million for a rate increase for intellectual and developmental disability providers; $7 million for a first-in-the-nation behavioral health crisis center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; $2 million to expand the Georgia Apex Program in 59 additional schools as well as additional funding for suicide prevention training in schools as well as a youth suicide prevention specialist; as well as additional funding for the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suicide prevention services, and one suicide epidemiologist. This budget also recognizes $39.5 million for the new Rural Innovation Fund and $10 million to establish a broadband infrastructure grant program for rural communities.
The House passed a handful of bills this week to cut your taxes and spur economic recovery for businesses and create new jobs across our state. We unanimously passed House Bill 593, or the Tax Relief Act of 2021, to cut income taxes during the tax year 2022 by increasing the standard deduction for taxpayers that are single and heads of household from $4,600 to $5,400 and increasing the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly from $6,000 to $7,100. The standard deduction for those who are married but file individually would increase from $3,000 to $3,550. HB 593 would save Georgia taxpayers approximately $140 million in this time of need and allow taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Of course, we did a lot more during the week but space won't let me go over it, and all of these bills are subject to the Senate and Governor's approval. It you have a question on this or any of the bills you may have heard about, let me know, and we will send you the summary I make up each week.
I greatly appreciate any feedback I receive from my constituents, and I welcome you to contact my office for questions or concerns about the legislative session. My Capitol office number is 404-656-7153, my home 770-893-2039, and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact me anytime.