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Georgia Senate passes $60.9B fiscal 2025 budget

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(The Center Square) — The Georgia Senate approved a $60.9 billion state budget for fiscal 2025, a spending plan that includes pay raises for state employees and an additional salary bump for state law enforcement officers.

The Senate’s version of House Bill 916, which passed 53-1, includes more than $36 billion in state funds and more than $19 billion in federal funds. The state Senate and House must finalize the budget before Thursday’s adjournment.

The budget, which covers the fiscal year starting July 1, is a decrease from the more than $61.8 billion amended fiscal 2024 budget lawmakers passed as part of House Bill 915.

In presenting the bill on the Senate floor, state Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, said the budget includes a 4% salary increase — up to a $3,000 maximum — for eligible full-time state employees. State law enforcement officers would see an additional $3,000 salary increase on top of the 4% raise.

On the education front, the spending plan includes $2,500 raises for certified public school teachers, $207 million dollars for pupil transportation, $266 million in the QBE equalization formula and $243 million for school enrollment growth. The Senate proposal also adds $103.9 million to establish school safety security grants.

Tillery said the Senate increased the amount appropriated for bond defeasance to $64.1 million, up from the House’s proposal of $30.7 million.

“Our thought there is, let’s find the bonds that the interest rate is higher than what we were making in our banks, and let’s go ahead and pay them off early,” Tillery said in presenting the bill.

On Tuesday, lawmakers gave their final approval to Senate Bill 366, the Tax Expenditures Transparency Act of 2024. Proponents say the measure provides more insight into the state’s budgeting process and creates a permanent process for annually reviewing tax incentive programs.

“Georgians deserve to have transparency and a clear picture of how their taxpayer dollars are being spent, while knowing which industries receive tax breaks,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones said in a statement. “The people of Georgia have placed their trust in their elected officials, and we owe it to them to be wise stewards of their hard earned money.”

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