Georgia’s new $30.2 billion budget includes about $950 million in raises for a state workforce that seems eager to leave. For each of the last five years, about one in five state employees has quit — the latest turnover rate was over 23% for the most recent fiscal year, which ended last June.
The state auditor himself told budget-writers that pretty much an entire audit team recently got hired away by a metro school system for a roughly $30,000 raise each. Prison staff turnover has contributed to conditions bad enough that there were at least 20 murders in state correctional facilities last year.
Overall, the spending plan is a 10.8% increase over the current year’s budget after cuts during COVID-19. The top spending categories are education and health care, which were the areas with the biggest cuts this past year.
Presenting the budget to his colleagues late Monday night, at the end of the legislative session, Georgia House Appropriations Chairman Terry England (R-Auburn) said the 168-page budget document incorporates raises for state staff, including prison guards and behavioral health care nurses and aides. Teachers will get a $2,000 raise, while state and university employees will receive $5,000 pay boosts.
The raises, England said, are “lifting our entire workforce as they continue to perform flawlessly for us across the state.”
England also highlighted about $180 million in new funding for mental health programs for the 2023 fiscal year that begins July 1.
The budget passed both chambers of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Georgia Senate Democrats said the budget wasn’t perfect, but tweeted that “it restores major cuts to agencies and services, provides raises for teachers and state employees, and fully funds the [Quality Basic Education] formula for education.” For most of this century, the state has failed to fully fund its own education spending benchmarks under the QBE formula.
But future state budgets may not be so robust. Less than an hour after the House approved the 2023 budget, both the House and the Senate, again with bipartisan support, approved House Bill 1437, a path toward a lower, flatter, more regressive income tax.
Supporters including state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Hufstetler, (R-Rome, praised it as a massive tax cut, but he also told his colleagues Monday that the bill would cost the state around $1 billion annually if the cuts are fully implemented. That would be about 1/30th of the state’s budgeted revenue.
Critics at the nonprofit Georgia Budget and Policy Institute pointed out that richer people benefit more from income tax cuts – and that for most Georgians, the savings would be less than $200, while the cost a few years down the road would be closer to $2 billion annually.
With that, please enjoy some budget details:
Note: The numbers in these graphs are taken from the Georgia FY 2023 budget and follow reporting conventions in that budget, reflecting what are listed as "state funds". That means mainly money from state sales and income taxes, the gas tax, and lottery.