UPDATE: House, Senate reach compromise on state budget

House and Senate leaders have reached a deal on the state's fiscal 2010 budget, avoiding a late-night impasse as the 2009 session of the Georgia General Assembly winds down today.

The budget is being printed now so legislators can vote on it this evening, Senate leaders said.

Medicaid is fully funded in the budget, according to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Hill, who was in on the House-Senate negotiations. That was a concern after the House — at least according to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Senate — left a hole of about $140 million in Medicaid funding.

Even with that hole filled, the budget deal avoids cutting hospital and other provider fees, Hill said. That was something the House, as well as hospitals and doctors, wanted.

With this extra spending, the budget had to be balanced by drawing down federal stimulus money that had been earmarked for 2011, said Hill, R-Reidsville. There are also new cuts across state departments, Hill said.

The extra stimulus money amounts to about $90 million, Hill said. Depending on whether the economy recovers between now and next year, that could make the 2011 budget more difficult to balance.

Specifics about the new cuts weren't immediately available early this afternoon, but Hill said there are no teacher furloughs contemplated in the agreement. State employees won't pay extra for health insurance either, he said, though Perdue's administration has the authority to change that.

Hill also said that departments that charge the public fees were encouraged to raise them to ease the hit of larger cuts.

"A lot of cuts," Hill said. "There's some real pain."

Most Middle Georgia projects appear to have survived the budgeting process. That includes funding for the aviation campus at Middle Georgia College and building renovations at Fort Valley State University, Hill said.

"I don't know any Middle Georgia projects that might have slipped out," he said.