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June 2020
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House budget committee cuts teacher pay raise in half

capitolbeat 

 

By Dave Williams

Bureau Chief

Capitol Beat News Service

 

ATLANTA - Budget writers in the Georgia House of Representatives Monday cut in half the teacher pay raise Gov. Brian Kemp proposed in January.

Reducing the salary hike from $2,000 per teacher to $1,000 would allow lawmakers to restore spending cuts the governor recommended in other areas of his $28.1 billion fiscal 2021 budget plan, including funding for programs that affect education, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England said.

“To teachers, it’s not all about the money,” said England, R-Auburn. “It’s support services and wraparound services, not only in the classroom but in the community.”

In keeping with the $27.4 billion mid-year budget for the current fiscal year now before a legislative conference committee, the fiscal 2021 spending plan the House Appropriations Committee approved Monday would restore many of the across-the-board cuts Kemp is proposing to help offset sluggish state tax collections.

Last August, the governor ordered state agencies to reduce spending by 4% this fiscal year and 6% in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.

Besides increasing teacher pay, next year’s budget calls for a 2% pay raise for employees across state government and targeted increases of 2%, 4% and 5% for workers in agencies experiencing annual turnover rates of more than 30%.

As is the case with the mid-year budget, the fiscal 2021 spending plan the committee approved would restore cuts to the Department of Agriculture Kemp recommended, including funds to hire five additional food safety inspectors and two animal inspectors.

The committee also put back funds to add 44 beds to the Department of Behavioral Health’s budget for treatment of Georgians with drug addictions and expand Medicaid coverage to low-income mothers for up to six months after their babies are born.

Some of the restored cuts are aimed specifically at the needs of rural Georgia, including funds for the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, the state’s new hemp farming program and for a new rural psychology residence program at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie.

The House budget also would fully fund school counselors across the state at the rate of one counselor for every 450 students, reject cuts the governor recommended to Georgia’s accountability courts, add two environmental engineers to the state Environmental Protection Division to monitor the disposal of coal ash and reduce cuts to the state’s public libraries.

England said Georgia teachers still would be getting an 11.7% pay increase over two years despite losing $1,000 from next year’s raise. Kemp and the General Assembly approved $3,000 increases for teachers in this year’s spending plan.

England said the House is committed to revisiting teacher pay when it takes up the fiscal 2022 budget next year.

The full House is due to vote on the fiscal 2021 budget on Tuesday.