Legislative Notebook: Georgia House, Senate likely to agree on area spending

mlee@macon.comMarch 21, 2012 

The draft fiscal 2013 budget proposal from the state Senate Appropriations Committee agrees with the House on a $2.5 million bond to buy out residents of an area near Warner Robins Air Force Base.

The U.S. Department of Defense wants the area cleared of homes, on the grounds that it is noisy and in a crash zone.

The Senate draft also wants the House’s suggested $800,000 bump in the annual state grant to the Mercer University School of Medicine. The state funds the medical program in order to train more physicians for under-served rural areas. The new money would put the total grant at $21 million for the year beginning this July. Unlike the House, the Senate panel’s budget also suggests funding to start up a new Federally Qualified Community Health Center in Macon County. Along with one in Butts County, the combined appropriation is $500,000. Such clinics take all patients regardless of ability to pay. The House and Senate must approve identical budgets before their annual session ends, probably by the end of March. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on its $19.2 billion overall proposal Wednesday.

Millions for vets in Milledgeville home

The residents of the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville will be able to pay for part of their care with federal funds that Georgia is the last state to tap. State House Bill 535 closes a loophole that kept the Milledgeville home and its sister home in Augusta from receiving U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Aid and Attendance benefits. Bill author state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, told the Senate Appropriations Committee the benefits will be worth $3 million to $6 million annually between the two homes.

The cash amount per recipient varies and is an addition to a veteran’s basic pension. The bill already has House approval, and the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to it. Now it’s in the Senate Rules Committee, waiting for a chance at the Senate floor.

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