Politics & Government

Georgia Legislature approves $19 billion budget

ATLANTA -- The Georgia General Assembly approved late Tuesday a $19 billion spending plan for next year.

The Senate passed the budget in a 55-1 vote, while the House approved it 173-0 a short while later.

As usual, the largest chunk of state money would be spent on K-12 education. Schools would get some $8.5 billion for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1.

That’s up from about $8.1 billion this year.

With an improving state economy reflected in rising state revenue numbers, the compromise budget worked out by the Georgia House and Senate this week lacks the cuts of previous years.

Under this budget, obstetricians and family care doctors would get paid better -- up to some 90 percent of their costs -- when they treat low-income Medicaid patients. House Minority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire, called that $70 million spending amount “a huge step” in helping attract doctors to underserved rural areas.

The state also is borrowing about $1 billion for repairing old facilities or building new ones.

The Ocmulgee Public Fishing Area’s leaky lake will be repaired with bond money. Middle Georgia State College, Middle Georgia Technical College and their joint Military Academic and Training Center are in line for new buildings for science, health and truck-driving students.

The state also will spend about $300,000 to start a medical marijuana registry.

Georgia will receive an additional $13 billion in federal funds that must be spent as the federal government mandates. Much of it goes to Medicare, Medicaid and transportation.